White, Robert Leon (1898–1964)

By: Roxanne Williamson

Type: Biography

Published: October 1, 1995

Updated: March 8, 2019

Robert Leon White, architect, was born near Cooper, Texas, in Delta County on August 27, 1898. He attended classes at North Texas State Normal School in Denton in 1917 and subsequently served in the United States Army during World War I, earning the rank of second lieutenant. In 1918 he entered the University of Texas, where he received his bachelor's degree in architecture in 1921. After graduation, White worked in San Antonio as a drafting teacher at the Main Avenue High School and as a draftsman for Ralph H. Cameron and for the firm of Phelps and Dewees. In the fall of 1923 he became an adjunct professor at the University of Texas where he taught until his death. He was promoted the following year to associate professor and superintendent of construction for the university at the time the school was beginning to use funds from its oilfields to construct new buildings. In 1925 White became an ex officio member of the faculty building committee, a position he held for the next thirty years. The following year he was also appointed supervising architect for the university, a position he held until 1958. During his years as supervising architect, White directed the planning and development of the university's ambitious building program. In 1930 White received his master's degree from the University of Texas with a thesis on the San José y San Miguel de Aguayo Mission in San Antonio. His design for the Texas Union building on the campus reveals his continuing interest in Spanish Colonial architecture. White was also the principal designer for Hogg Auditorium and served as Paul Philippe Cret's associate and supervising architect for the Main Building, the Tower, and the many other buildings that Cret designed for the campus in the 1930s and 1940s. In addition to his work at the university, White designed the Central Christian Church of Austin (1928), and in Galveston he was the architect for the outpatient building at the John Sealy Hospital (1931–32), the Rebecca Sealy Nurses Residence (1933), and the Crippled Children's Hospital (1937). From 1934 to 1937 White took a leave of absence from UT. During these years he worked with the noted East Texas restoration architect Raiford Stripling. In 1934 White served as the president of the Hill Country Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He also designed the library and administration building for Texas Western College in El Paso (1938) and the University Christian Church in Austin (1954). He received the first Gold Medal of the Texas Society of Architects in 1950 for his Masonic Grand Lodge Temple in Waco (1948). He was married to Viola Baker, with whom he had two children. He died in Austin on July 28, 1964.

Hank Todd Smith, ed., Austin, Its Architects and Architecture (Austin Chapter, American Institute of Architects, 1986). Robert Leon White Papers, Architecture Drawings Collection, University of Texas at Austin. Roxanne Williamson, Austin, Texas: An American Architectural History (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1973).

  • Architecture
  • Architects

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Roxanne Williamson, “White, Robert Leon,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/white-robert-leon.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 1, 1995
March 8, 2019