Byron Raymond “Whizzer” White died on April 15, 2002 at the age of 84, he won fame both as a football halfback and as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Born on June 8, 1917 he was raised in the nearby town of Wellington, Colorado, where he obtained his high school diploma in 1930.
After graduating at the top of his high school class, White attended the University of Colorado at Boulder on a scholarship. He joined the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and served as student body president his senior year.
After Oxford, White played for the Detroit Lions from 1940 to 1941. In three NFL seasons, he played in 33 games.
He led the league in rushing yards in 1938 and 1940, and he was one of the first “big money” NFL players, making $15,000 a year.
His career was cut short when he entered the United States Navy during World War II; after the war, he elected to attend law school rather than return to football. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.
White practiced in Denver for roughly fifteen years with the law firm now known as Davis Graham & Stubbs. This was a time in which the Denver business community flourished, and White rendered legal service to that flourishing community.
White was for the most part a transactional attorney. He drafted contracts and advised insolvent companies, and he argued the occasional case in court.
In 1966, he objected to the ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, which changed the way the police could interrogate suspects. White thought the court overstepped its bounds, creating its own version of the Fifth Amendment.
In his dissenting opinion, he wrote “I have no desire whatsoever to share the responsibility” for the decision’s “impact on the present criminal process.”
As the court became more conservative in the 1980s and ’90s, White seemed to more in line with his colleagues. He wrote the majority opinion for Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), which upheld the Georgia law against “homosexual sodomy.”
He and his fellow justices overturned a lower court’s ruling that considered this sexual act to be covered under an implied right to privacy found in the Constitution’s Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
White thought the Constitution offered no such provisions, and the court had no interest in invalidating the sodomy laws in roughly 25 states.
He was survived by his wife Marion, their two children, Byron White and Nancy White Lippe, and six grandchildren.
White was hailed by President George W. Bush as “a distinguished jurist who served his country with honour and dedication,” according to the Washington Post.