From a football field to the Supreme Court
Byron R. White was born June 8, 1917, in Fort Collins, Colo., and grew up in nearby Wellington, Colo., according to www.supremecourthistory.org.
White attended the University of Colorado, becoming a college football sensation and earning the nickname "Whizzer" White. He graduated in 1938 and deferred his Rhodes Scholarship for a semester to play a season of professional football with the Pittsburgh Pirates (later called the "Steelers"). He received the National Football League's highest-ever salary at the time—$15,800—and led the league in rushing.
He later attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar for one year before enrolling in Yale Law School. He took a semester off from Yale Law School to play for the Detroit Lions, once again leading the league in rushing.
His education was interrupted by the U.S. entering World War II. White joined the Navy, served in the South Pacific and completed his legal studies at Yale after the war, graduating in 1946.
White received an appointment as clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson for the 1946-47 term. He then returned to Colorado and practiced with a Denver law firm for 14 years. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.
In 1961, White was appointed U.S. deputy attorney general by President John F. Kennedy. White served in that position until April 12, 1962, when Kennedy nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed the appointment April 16, 1962, and White took the oath of office that day. Only 44 at the time of his appointment, White was one of the youngest people ever named to the court, and his 31-year tenure was one of the longest in the court's history.
White retired in 1993 and passed away April 15, 2002, at age 84. The Byron R. White U.S. Courthouse in Denver was named in his honor in 1994.
This Web exclusive information is a supplement to A case of honorable roofing.