Johnny White was a veteran who recruited top African-American performers out from the city to dazzle Long Islanders in Bay Shore in the 1940s, 50s and early 60s.
He did so with the use of a nondescript building he erected at 2nd and Harrison avenues, just south of where Sunrise Highway is today.
The locals came to call his establishment “Johnny White’s Nightclub.”
“He had come from the South and saw many of the black people had no particular place to go for entertainment, and he saw education wasn’t as great as it should have been,” said Deacon James Cornigans of the First Baptist Church of Bay Shore.
“So he helped set up educational programs for the different black people who lived in this area. Then he constructed a building; we called it Johnny White’s.”
Cornigans also serves as an historian for the church, which purchased the building in 1992. He also remembers delivered Newsday to Johnny White’s when he was growing up in Bay Shore. He said he didn’t realize back then about the nightlife.
But after White’s death and the building’s sale to two men whose names Cornigans can’t recall, the old nightclub began to attract trouble. It was often raided, until it was vacated for good, he said.
The church purchased that building and other small houses. Today that area is a parking lot just south of the church, but the additional room gives the church needed space for potential expansion.
“[Johnny White] helped enhance this area,” Cornigans said. “People who were black and white would come and see the entertainers. They had heard about them on the radio — back then you didn’t have black people on TV.
“Suddenly this was a desirable place to visit.”
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Photo: This Newsday photo taken in 1990 still hangs in the First Baptist Church.