Some of Sony, a.k.a. Minolta's telephotos are white for a similar reason I think, they had white finishes since the early 90s as I recall, but could have started soon after Canon brought out their whites.
The main reason for white is to reflect the heat, but traditional lens designs didn't have so much of an issue with that, it was when Canon began using Fluorite elements in lenses like the mentioned FD 300 F/2.8 L that it became rather necessary, as Fluorite reacted badly to heat. Probably a lot worse then the average glass or metal bodies would in even the worst heat and weather. Eventually it did indeed become a symbol for the 'best of the best' telephotos, and lately with lenses like the 70-300 they're painted white just to show off it's "L status" when there's no practical reason to be sporting the white finish... just stands out unnecessarily for when it's compactness should help with maneuverability and stealth.