Walter White was an African American but had blonde hair and blue eyes. As a young teenager, a white mob threatened to attack his family home during the 1906 Atlanta race riots. It changed him. Twelve years later, White joined the NAACP and began investigating lynchings.
Passing as white, he attended lynchings, gathered details and identified participants. He then published the information in the NAACP magazine and other publications. A few times, White barely escaped from those who found out his true identity. In 1929, Walter White published an account of his investigative exploits. That year, he also became the NAACP executive director. White wanted the federal government to pass an anti-lynching law but Southern senators prevented that. His work did, however, curtail the number of lynchings in the 30s. In 1941, White took a prominent part with A. Philip Randolph in pressuring President Roosevelt to issue an executive order banning racial discrimination in defense industries.
Upon his death in 1955, the New York Times eulogized him as “the nearest approach to a national leader of American Negroes since Booker T. Washington.”