George White was the second son of a Bristol painter and decorator. At the age of fourteen and after a rudimentary education, he obtained a job as office boy to Stanley and Wasbrough, then Bristol's leading commercial solicitors. His hard work and obvious intelligence drew him to the attention of Mr. Stanley, who trusted and mentored him. At the age of twenty-two, he set himself up in Bristol as a stockbroker and public accountant.
Through Mr. Stanley he had already been appointed Secretary to the newly formed Bristol Tramway Company and had been entrusted with the negotiation of the necessary Parliamentary bills.
From this he never looked back, soon being consulted on tramway matters throughout England, while at the same time investing in failing transport enterprises (including railways), and turning them to profit before selling out.
Through ceaseless hard work, he became managing director and then chairman and principle shareholder of Bristol Tramways. He acquired Imperial Tramways, which owned lines in Dublin, Reading, Stockton, Middlesbrough and other cities.
Having been appointed Receiver to the failed West Metropolitan Tramways in London, he took the Company over and re-launched it successfully as London United Tramways.
With his lifelong friend, the engineer James Clifton Robinson, he pioneered the introduction of the conventional electric tramways in Great Britain, opening the first line in Bristol in 1895 and the first in London in 1901. Other cities followed.
Through London United he became involved in the race to pioneer electric underground railways beneath London's streets. Interested in the possibilities of the internal combustion engine, he began running motor taxis and motor buses in the first years of the 20th century and began to manufacture his own Bristol lorries and buses in 1908.
George White never forgot the financial strictures of his childhood and throughout his life gave generously to charity. He largely financed the building of two hospitals, the cause closest to his heart being the Bristol Royal Infirmary, of which he was President. He opened its state of the art new building, the Edward VII Memorial Hospital to Royal acclaim in 1912.
Clearly concerned by the advance in world aviation and the apparent inability of the British Government and British armed forces to protect Britain from the air, he determined from 1908 to found a British aircraft industry for the defence of the nation. This he did in February 1910, basing it in his native city, but with little expectation of any immediate financial return.
He urged the government constantly to take aviation seriously, declaring in a speech in 1912, that within five years "the Powers will be calling for thousands if not tens of thousands or airplanes" and adding his deeply held belief that the "possession of a strong fleet of aeroplanes by any country will be a dominating influence for peace."
Similarly concerned by the threat posed by the newly invented German U Boat, he backed the development of the anti-submarine and anti-mine Paravane with his own money. He pioneered the first "air stations" or airports in Britain. His flying schools were so successful that by the outbreak of war, they had trained half the pilots available to the forces.
Having appointed his son G. Stanley White Managing Director of his British and Colonial Aeroplane Company (later the Bristol Aeroplane Company) in 1911, Sir George died suddenly in 1916. His company would later to become the largest aircraft and aircraft engine manufacturer in the world.