Chris C. White, 80, owner of Chris’ Cleaners

Chris C. White

Chris C. White was the owner of Chris’ Cleaners and Tailoring in West Philadelphia.

He died June 19, 2012, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 80.

White was born March 19, 1932, to the late Sandy and Willie Kate White in Halifax County, Va. He was the youngest of nine children.

At an early age, White relocated to Philadelphia, where he was educated in the Philadelphia Public School system, attending Martha Washington Elementary School, Mayer Sulzberger Middle School and Overbrook High School. He later enlisted in the United States Army and served in the Korean War. White was honorably discharged in 1953.

He attended the former Craft School of Tailoring at 6th and Chestnut streets and would later go on to earn a certificate in accounting.

In 1950, White was introduced to his future bride Myra (Nonnie) Harper by his best friend, the late David 2X Shaw. He spoke often about Myra’s family. He stated that when he fell in love with Myra, he also fell in love with her parents and siblings.

After three years of courtship, they were married on Oct. 24, 1953, and went on to be blessed with three children, Gail, Rashida and Abdal Aleem.

Along with his wife, he joined the Nation of Islam in 1955, becoming Chris X and Myra X. As a Fruit of Islam (FOI), he served in numerous capacities; most notably in the secretarial and treasury departments. He would work with prominent figures within the Nation of Islam, such as Malcolm X, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed and Minister Louis Farrakhan. During the mid-1970s, the White family would receive the Islamic surname “Karim” from the Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, leader of the American Society of Muslims; Chris and Myra would also receive the names Aziz and Saafie.

Inspired by the Nation of Islam’s principle of self-help and Black entrepreneurship, White established a dry cleaning and tailoring business, Chris’ Cleaners and Tailoring in March of 1960, which is still up and running today.

Chris’ Cleaners would service several neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia, including North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, and Northeast Philadelphia. His first dry-cleaning and tailoring shop was at Uber and Montgomery Avenue. At one time, White owned and operated a total of five dry-cleaning and tailoring shops. Today, most people associate Chris’ Cleaners and Tailoring with 52nd St. and Girard Avenue, and 56th and Stewart streets.

White was revered for his excellent skills in tailoring, especially his designs of suits, pants and coats. Chris’ Cleaners and Tailoring would go on to service many prominent Philadelphians, including civil rights activist Cecil B. Moore, members of the singing groups “The Blue Notes” and “The Delfonics,” and radio personalities Georgie Woods, Mary Mason and Nick Taliaferro. White traveled to Chicago several times to tailor suits for American Society of Muslim’s leader Imam W. Deen Mohammed.

Prior to opening his dry cleaning service, White was employed at the former Quartermaster Depot making military uniforms, and the Philadelphia Naval Hospital.

In 1977, White was instrumental in the founding of Masjidullah, Inc., where the meetings began in his West Philadelphia home.

White enjoyed community service. He served as block captain for the 5600 W. Stewart Street block. He was also a member of the Carroll Park Community Council, a member of numerous Islamic service committees and chairman of the White Family Reunion.

White often talked about the importance of family. The Sunday before he passed, his family held a Father’s Day gathering for him at his home. He enjoyed spending time with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He supported his family endlessly throughout all of their endeavors.

He served as a mentor to many. People of all ages, faiths, races and walks of life would seek advice from White. His family said he was known for his stern, yet compassionate, talks. Neighborhood children would also call him “Dad” and “Grandpop.” To others he was known as “Brother Aziz,” “Brother Chris,” or Mr. White.

White was preceded in death by his brothers, Robert, William, George, and John and four sisters, Annie, Fannie, Alethea and Eunice.

In addition to his wife and three children, White is survived by his daughter-in-law, Lora; grandchildren, Basheer, Hamina, Walida, Amir, Khalid and Khaleef; great-grandchildren, Dahmir, Zahir, Yahsir, Zakii, Saafirah, Naimah, Ibn, Milan, Zakia and Jamira; sisters-in-law, Catherine (Ummil Karim) White, Ruby Harper Bradshaw, Lillian Harper Gary, Juanita Harper Franklin (Carl) and Mary Harper Leecan (Lee); brothers-in-law, Adam Harper (Jean), Roosevelt Harper (Queen) and Waymon Harper Jr.; special relative, Annie Cosby; and other relatives and friends.

Services were held June 21 at the Philadelphia Masjid-Sister Clara Muhammad School, 4700 Wyalusing Ave. Burial was held in Westminster Cemetery.

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