Lincoln White, 77, the official spokesman of the State Department from 1955 to 1963 and the head of its news office, died of Parkinson's disease April 27 at a nursing home in Searcy, Ark. He lived in West Point, Ark.
Mr. White joined the State Department in 1939. He became assistant director of the news office in 1953. He was made acting director in 1955 and director two years later. He was U.S. consul general in Melbourne, Australia, for three years before retiring from the Foreign Service in 1966.
He was one of the most popular men ever to hold one of the most difficult jobs in the department. He placed a high value on his reputation for never knowingly misleading the press. He was said to have believed that the government put him in an untenable position only once.
Mr. White would not talk about it, but former associates said he was shocked to find the statements prepared for him in the early stages of the 1960 U-2 spy plane incident were untrue. He told the press that pilot Francis Gary Powers was on a "weather reconnaissance" mission and had accidentally violated Soviet air space.
President Eisenhower later acknowledged that Powers was on an intelligence-gathering mission when he was shot down over the Soviet Union. The president took personal responsibility for the mission and for the version that Mr. White originally had released.
When Mr. White left the press office, secretary of State Dean Rusk said that Mr. White, who was called "Linc," had "endured the slings and arrows of outraged newsmen with limitless good humor, urbanity and great service to his country."
The Washington Post noted in an editorial that Mr. White "always has given his best to a demanding job; at any hour of the day or night he has been unfailingly courteous to his persistent constituents. If newsmen ever have been outraged the cause has not been Mr. White. As Mr. Rusk said, we shall miss him."
Mr. White was born in Chattanooga, Tenn. He graduated from Spring Hill College in Alabama in 1928. He then worked as a reporter for the Chattanooga News, a research librarian with the U.S. Geological Survey, a publicist with the U.S. Education Commission and a staff member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee before he joined State.
His first wife, the former Helen Hanson, died in 1967.
Survivors include his wife, the former Virginia Hudson, of West Point; a son from his first marriage, Paul Lincoln White Jr. of Bethesda; a sister, Sister Elizabeth White of Albany, N.Y., and five grandchildren.