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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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WHITE, Norm (Rev.) (Dyersville, IA, Mar. 31, 1924--Dubuque, IA, Aug. 28, 1996). Advocate for the family farmer. White was the last Roman Catholic priest in the United States to serve as a full-time rural life director. He grew up in Sherrill where his father was a banker until the Great Depression ruined him financially. Moving with his parents to a farm near Independence, White developed a love of farming. Throughout his priesthood, he proposed that farmers cooperate rather than compete. In 1983, White was appointed the Archdiocesan director of the Rural Life Conference. The following year, he was chosen by Archbishop Daniel KUCERA to be the director of the Rural Life Center for the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

As an advocate for farmers, White challenged Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz's statement that farmers must "get big or get out." He stayed with families about to suffer foreclosure, delivered food to the needy, and collected donations to help farm families pay utility bills. In 1994, during an interview on "CBS This Morning," White warned that the 1980s farm crisis was not over. A member of Bread for the World, Iowa National Heritage Foundation, and the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE (N.A.A.C.P.), he served on the boards of the Tri-State Tourism Council, Prairie Fire Rural Action, and the Center for Land and People. In 1957, White became a member of the Archdiocesan Board of Clergy Examiners and was named chairman of the Commission for Sacred Liturgy in 1960. A lover of nature, White was at home, in his own words,"walkin' and talkin' and gawkin' with God."