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In memoriam: Lonnie White, 49

Longtime sportswriter played football at USC

football player Lonnie White
Lonnie White

Lonnie White, a record-setting USC football kick returner and Los Angeles Times sportswriter, died on March 29. He was 49.

White, who had a number of health problems over the last several years, died at Glendale Memorial Hospital.

White played receiver at USC from 1982 to 1986, but he starred as a kickoff return man, setting a single-season record with 716 return yards, which stood until 2010 when the record was broken by Robert Woods.

He made the New Orleans Saints roster in the NFL’s strike-shortened 1987 season before beginning his journalism career, which landed him at the Times for two decades.

“It’s a tremendous loss for the entire Trojan family,” USC athletic department spokesman Tim Tessalone said. “Lonnie was always one of the favorite sons of USC, and we’ve always been very proud of his post-USC accomplishments.

“He had a tough go the last few years, but he was a true Trojan and fought on and battled through a lot of things.”

White was born in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 7, 1964, and grew up in New Jersey, where he starred in football and track and field at Asbury Park High School.

White worked for the Times from 1987 to 2008. He covered the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Kings, the NFL, UCLA football, USC basketball, high school sports and was a general assignment reporter.

His work was recognized several times in the Associated Press Sports Editors annual writing contest, and he wrote the book UCLA vs. USC: 75 years of the Greatest Rivalry in Sports.

Former Trojan running back Marcus Allen, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1981, said: “Obviously he was a loyal Trojan, that’s for sure, even though he’d be as objective as he possibly could as a writer. I thought he did a good job of walking that line.

“He had a job to do,” Allen added. “He wasn’t writing for the Trojans, he was a Trojan who was writing. I thought he did a good job of balancing that.”

In addition to his brother, Timothy, and sister, Terri, White is survived by his wife, Kimberly, from whom he was separated; and sister Zeline White-Howard.

White’s family has created a site for friends and fans to send donations for upcoming tributes to be held on April 26 at USC and in New Jersey (date to be determined).

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