Born December 6, 1915 in Atmore Alabama, Arthur Pershing “Tarzan” White accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime. A college and pro football star, world-champion wrestler, military officer, and scholar, Tarzan was known for his dedication as well as his gentle nature.
Half real-life feats of strength, ability, and intelligence, half folklore, Tarzan never forgot to thank his hometown of Atmore in his rise to fame.
Tarzan White: The Beginning
White’s career started with football. He was accepted to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa during his senior year of high school. He dropped out, which was common during The Depression, and quickly drew national attention as a talented lineman for the Crimson Tide.
At Alabama, Tarzan studied education, and was a member of Phi Delta Kappa, a professional organization for educators. He was a mathematical whiz and a speed reader, and rumors floated around that he went on to earn a doctorate from Columbia University—but he later confirmed that he’d never finished.
Tarzan played three seasons with the Giants, two years with the Cardinals, and three years with the U.S. Army Air Corp—he enlisted after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, earned the rank of lieutenant, and played with the Army all-star football team under General Bob Neyland, future University of Tennessee Hall-of-Fame coach.
After his time with the U.S. Army Air Corps, Tarzan returned to the Giants to play one more season. During their last game he suffered a spinal fracture, but left the hospital after just 10 days to wrestle in Atlanta. He had been wrestling since his first season with the Giants, but committed to it fully after his football days. He wrestled until he was nearly 60 years old, winning three world heavyweight championship belts along the way.
Life After Sports
After his athletic career, Tarzan spent more than 16 years as a rural postman in Jamestown. Residents described him as “colorful,” often delivering mail shirtless, wearing flip-flops and wrestling shorts, in his big Cadillac. At age 66, Tarzan was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1981.
Those who knew him well say he was tough as nails, a strong competitor, and extremely kind. Even long after high school, he was known to send newspaper clippings with stories of his accomplishments to his hometown friends in Atmore. On January 23, 1996, he passed away at the age of 80.
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