SANTA MONICA—James L. White, screenwriter for the 2004 movie “Ray,” passed away Thursday, July 23 in his Santa Monica home at the age of 67. White had been battling both pancreatic and liver cancer.
White is best known for his work on “Ray,” the biopic of legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles. Charles went blind at age seven and rose to stardom during the 1950s and 1960s. The movie tells the story of Ray’s career. Jamie Foxx, who played Charles in the movie, won an Oscar for his performance. White was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and was nominated at the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA).
Taylor Hackford, the director of “Ray,” told PEOPLE, “Jimmy White was a lovely man and a terrific writer, his insights as a black man growing up in the South were an invaluable asset in writer the script for Ray.”
Prior to his death, White had two projects in pre-production. Both were set to be biopics, one on singer and pianist Dinah Washington, and the other on blues singer Bessie Smith called “Empress of the Blues.” Neither had a director assigned yet.
Actor, director, and diplomat Sidney Poitier, White’s good friend, gave him his first job as a screenwriter.
White is survived by his wife, Elizabeth White, two daughters, Monee and Martina, and a son, Jimmy. The family will not be having funeral services, because the screenwriter told them not to. “Don’t throw a funeral,” he reportedly said, “because I won’t be there.”