Edwin Lee White was born in Valley City, North Dakota, on July 5, 1896, to Elsie (Hadley) and Frank White. Edwin White and his future wife, Christena K. Black, graduated from Valley City Normal School in 1914. He later attended Earlham College for one year, and taught school in Barnes County between 1915-1916.
In the fall of 1916, White attended classes at the University of North Dakota as a Junior. While enrolled at UND, White developed an acquaintance with Professor Dr. A. Hoyt Taylor who taught his Engineering Physics course. The two would collaborate on UND's local radio programs until White entered the United States Naval Reserve Corps in July 1917. He was called to active duty the next month, reporting to the USS Delaware for his orders. Once his official orders were given him, he was assigned to the USS Iowan, a transport ship. White was discharged as a Lieutenant, Junior Grade on February 11, 1919.
White moved to Washington, D.C. to attend George Washington University in 1921. He graduated with an AB degree in 1922 and later joined the staff at the Naval Aircraft Radio Laboratory at Anacostia, Washington, D.C., where Dr. Taylor was head of the program. At the same time, White started night school, working toward a Master of Science degree in Communication which he received from the aforementioned university in 1925. From there, White went to Hawaii for a three-year stint as an administrative radio engineer with the Signal Corps. He returned to Washington, D.C. to join the Federal Radio Commission, an agency which had just been made permanent by the Communication Acts of 1930. He was appointed Senior Engineer in the Engineering Department and began work on June 1, 1930.
With the advent of World War II, White took leave of his Federal service job to go on active military duty, a month before the Pearl Harbor attack. He served until February 1946, achieving the rank of Colonel in the Air Corps.
After the war, White resumed his old civil service job. The agency had now been replaced by the Federal Communications Commission. White retired in 1955 as Chief of the Safety and Special Radio Services Bureau.
White spent the rest of his life either teaching or doing consulting work. Following the death of his wife from a stroke in 1953, he married Marjorie M. Bunting, from Trenton, New Jersey, a friend of the family. Colonel Edwin Lee White died in 1989, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to his father, former North Dakota Governor Colonel Frank White.
The Edwin White Papers dates from 1891-1950 and consists of business and personal correspondence. Included in the personal letters are communication with his family, which includes Colonel Frank White, his father, and Christena White, his wife. Other correspondence includes patent quibbles regarding one of White's inventions, the Duplex Radio Communication System and other patent applications for his other inventions. Also included are disparate newspaper clippings between 1917-1942 that either feature White directly or relate to his field of specialty, radio communication. A report written with Lt. E.C. Denstaedt entitled Police Communication and a document relating to the Inter-American Technical Aviation Conference in Lima, Peru.
In addition, these papers also include documents pertaining to the "Inter-American Conference of Aviation" held in Lima, Peru in September 1937, which White had attended. Some materials include recommendations produced by the conference, transcripts of sessions, roster of attendees and countries represented. Also a collection of local newspaper clippings reporting on the event follow the conference official papers. Most of the text contained in this volume is in Spanish.