A few days after Ronnie L. White was nominated as a finalist
for the Missouri Supreme Court, an old struggle resurfaced in his
He opened his mail on Oct. 6 and learned that he had won a
drawn-out battle over child support. The state had sought $11,625
in back support for his oldest son, an amount White said he never
owed. In the end, the state decided White owed no money - and had
actually overpaid by $75.
How White has dealt with his responsibility for an
out-of-wedlock son born 22 years ago gives insights intot the man
who will soon join the Supreme Court. Gov. Mel Carnahan appointed
White on Monday to replace the late Judge Elwood Thomas.
White, 42, is a judge on the Missouri Court of Appeals in St.
Louis. He talked about the case last week after the Post-Dispatch
received a tip that he owed child support. White made available
some of the legal documents that track the case. The St. Louis
Circuit Court and the state Division of Child Support Enforcement
said their files are closed.
White said he and his family "did everything we could" for his
son, Sir Ron Primus.
The governor, who reviewed the case as part of a background
check by the Missouri Highway Patrol, "couldn't find any reason at
all to believe he did not meet his obligations," said spokesman
Sir Ron (pronounced SirRON) Primus could not be reached despite
several telephone calls and trips to the home in north St. Louis
that he shares with his mother, sister, aunt and others.
His mother, Daphne Primus, said in a telephone interview that
White had helped Sir Ron Primus when he was young but "just froze
my son out" when legal wrangling began in 1986. Her son became "mad
at the whole world," she said. "Ronnie disturbed him by showing him
a life of luxury and then taking it away."
Despite the state's recent decision, Daphne Primus believes she
deserves more money. White "says he doesn't owe anything because he
paid what the state told him to pay and that's that," Primus said.
"But he didn't pay me. I'm not out to hurt Ronnie. I just want to
see if I can get me some money."
White denies harming his son when they lost contact. He said
the relationship had soured because his son resisted White's rules.
White said Daphne Primus, who has raised three children on
welfare, views her connection to him as "winning the lottery. She
thinks because I had a child with her 22 years ago, I should pay
her the rest of my life. It's over."
No Frills At Home
Though they grew up only two doors apart on Labadie, their
households apparently were drastically different. While Daphne
Primus' mother was on welfare, White said, both his parents worked.
"My father didn't really believe in the welfare system," White
said. "He always thought black people should get off their butts
and get a job." His father was a postal worker, starting as a mail
sorter and moving up to station manager at the old post office on
Olive Boulevard. His mother had cleaning jobs, off and on.
White said his father used to start the day standing at the
foot of the stairs, calling his three boys: "OK, where are you
going today? You're either going to school or work." As adults, he
and his brothers joked when one missed work, saying, "I'm calling
White is the eldest, born in 1953. By age 10, he was bused to
grade school in south St. Louis, where, White said, "the kids would
throw milk and food at our buses and taunt us and tell us to go
back to north St. Louis. It made me more determined to stay in
His family had the basics but no frills. At 14, White sold
newspapers, earning a half penny for each. At 16, he was a janitor
at a White Castle restaurant.
He caught four buses to get to the restaurant at Vandeventer
and Chouteau. When he had saved $250, he bought a 1964 Rambler.
Daphne Primus had one child when she became pregnant again. …