Dr. Julian White, the 71-year-old veteran music educator whose career became tarnished after a member of his Florida A&M University (FAMU) Marching band died last fall from injuries stemming from an illegal hazing incident, resigned from the university Thursday.
The decision by White, who had been placed on administrative leave in December as part of the school’s response to criticism about its handling of the band member’s death, came as a surprise to the FAMU community, school officials said privately.
At the same time, White’s decision to end his nearly 40-year relationship with his alma mater eliminates the possibility of a nasty legal fight with the school. White had hired an attorney, Charles E. Hobbs II, to help him get his job back.
White said he was being blamed by the school administration for what he claimed were lapses by certain administrators who had neglected to address alleged hazing activity. White had already made several very public and pointed assertions and said he could provide copies of several documents he had sent superiors who took no actions to back him up.
“Dr. White remains a loyal FAMU Rattler and wishes his alma mater continued success in the future,” attorney Hobbs said in a statement. “He looks forward to spending more time with his family,” Hobbs said.
White was not speaking directly on the day of his announcement, a spokesman said, due to promises to speak first with several specific local reporters on Friday.
Aside from those commitments, White’s spokesperson said he expects to testify in the upcoming trials of band members charged last week by Florida authorities with criminal hazing. To date, 13 band members—11 men and two women—have been charged in connection with the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion. Their trials could take a year or longer to get through the legal system.
“He’s looking forward to sitting down and talking about what he knew and what he didn’t, what he knew and when,” said White’s spokesperson who could not speak for attribution.
As university officials were preparing a response to White’s announcement, it also announced a special meeting of its board of trustees for Monday “regarding” the band.
The school offered no details on what would be discussed, although a list of unresolved issues was accumulating since early last December when university President James Ammons suspended all band activities. White’s decision removes an uncertainty about the pace at which a new music department and band leadership might be brought in as the university ponders how long the band suspension should last and in what way participants in hazing might or should be punished.
White’s spokesperson also said the retiring professor intends to fully cooperate with Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials who are investigating the finances of the university band. The spokesperson said White has nothing to hide with respect to band finances and “never touched” any of the funds under investigation.
White, a 1963 graduate of FAMU where he was a member of the university marching band and a drum major, joined the university faculty in 1973. He held a variety of posts before being appointed, in 1998, chairman of the music department and director of bands.