This Day in College Football History – April 15th

Byron Raymond White (June 8, 1917 – April 15, 2002) won fame both as a football halfback and as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Born and raised in Colorado, White played in the National Football League for three seasons and practiced law for 15 years before his Supreme Court appointment. White was the Colorado state chair of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign.White was appointed to the Supreme Court by Kennedy in 1962. He viewed his own court decisions as based on the facts of each case rather than as representative of a specific legal philosophy. He retired in 1993 and is the twelfth longest-serving justice in Supreme Court history. He died in Denver at the age of 84. He was the first Supreme Court Justice from the state of Colorado.  White was born in Fort Collins, Colorado, the son of Maude Elizabeth (Burger) and Alpha Albert White. 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. Graduating in 1938, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford and, after having deferred it for a year to play football, he went on to attend Hertford College, Oxford.

White was an All-American football halfback for the Colorado Buffaloes of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he acquired the nickname “Whizzer” from a newspaper columnist. The nickname would follow him throughout his later legal and Supreme Court career, to White’s chagrin. He also played basketball and baseball. After graduation he signed with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers), playing there during the 1938 season. He led the league in rushing in his rookie season and became the game’s highest-paid player. Of all the athletes I have known in my lifetime, I’d have to say Whizzer White came as close to anyone to giving 100 percent of himself when he was in competition.~- Pittsburgh Pirates/Steelers owner Art Rooney

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. During World War II, White served as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy stationed in the Pacific Theatre. He had originally wanted to join the Marines but was kept out due to being colorblind. He wrote the intelligence report on the sinking of future President John F. Kennedy’s PT-109. White was awarded two Bronze Star medals. White first met his wife Marion (died January 2009), the daughter of president of the University of Colorado, when she was in high school and he was a college football star. During World War II, Marion served in the WAVES while her future husband was a Navy intelligence officer. They married in 1946 and had two children: a son named Charles and a daughter named Nancy. At the time of his death, White and his wife had moved back to Colorado and were living in Denver. After World War II, he attended Yale Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1946. After serving as a law clerk to Chief Justice Fred Vinson, White returned to Denver.

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. During the 1960 presidential election, White put his football celebrity to use as chair of John F. Kennedy’s campaign in Colorado. White had first met the candidate when White was a Rhodes scholar and Kennedy’s father, Joseph Kennedy, was Ambassador to the Court of St. James. During the Kennedy administration, White served as United States Deputy Attorney General, the number two man in the Justice Department, under Robert F. Kennedy. He took the lead in protecting the Freedom Riders in 1961, negotiating with Alabama Governor John Malcolm Patterson.

Acquiring renown within the Kennedy Administration for his humble manner and sharp mind, he was appointed by Kennedy in 1962 to succeed Justice Charles Evans Whittaker, who retired for disability. Kennedy said at the time: “He has excelled at everything. And I know that he will excel on the highest court in the land.” The 44-year-old White was approved by a voice vote. He would serve until his retirement in 1993. His Supreme Court tenure was the fourth-longest of the 20th century.Upon the request of Vice President-Elect Al Gore, Justice White administered the oath of office on January 20, 1993 to the 45th U.S. Vice President. It was the only time White administered an oath of office to a Vice President. During his service on the high court, White wrote 994 opinions. He was fierce in questioning attorneys in court, and his votes and opinions on the bench reflect an ideology that has been notoriously difficult for popular journalists and legal scholars alike to pin down. He was seen as a disappointment by some Kennedy supporters who wished he would have joined the more liberal wing of the court in its opinions on Miranda v. Arizona and Roe v. Wade.White disliked the politics of Supreme Court appointments. At one point, he turned down future Justice Samuel Alito for a clerkship. He retired in 1993, during Bill Clinton’s presidency, saying that “someone else should be permitted to have a like experience.” Clinton appointed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a judge from the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and a former Columbia University law professor, to succeed him. After retiring from the Supreme Court, White occasionally sat with lower federal courts. He maintained chambers in the federal courthouse in Denver until shortly before his death. He also served for the Commission on Structural Alternatives for the Federal Courts of Appeals.  White died of pneumonia on April 15, 2002 at the age of 84. He was the last living Warren Court Justice, and died the day before the fortieth anniversary of his swearing in as a Justice. From his death until the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor, there were no living former Justices. His remains are interred at All Souls Walk at the St. John’s Cathedral in Denver.

The NFL Players Association gives the Byron “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year Award to one player each year for his charity work. Michael McCrary, who was involved in Runyon v. McCrary, grew up to be a professional football player and won the award in 2000. The federal courthouse in Denver that houses the Tenth Circuit is named after White. White was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003 by President George W. Bush. White was inducted into the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Hall of Fame on July 14, 2007, in addition to being a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the University of Colorado’s Athletic Hall of Fame, where he is enshrined as “The Greatest Buff Ever”.



Ted Kwalick (born April 15, 1947) is a former tight end in the National Football League and World Football League. He played for the San Francisco 49ers from 1969-1974 and the Oakland Raiders from 1975-1977. In 1975 he also played with the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League. He attended Penn State University after growing up and playing high school football at Montour High School outside of Pittsburgh. Kwalick made several All-America teams in 1967, and was unanimous in 1968, becoming Penn State’s first two-time All-America. His career totals, 1343 yards and 10 touchdowns, were Penn State records for a tight end. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989 and National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. Kwalick scored the first touchdown in Candlestick Park in 1971. Kwalick earned a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education from Penn State University in 1969. He is the president/owner of ProTech Voltage Systems, Inc., in Santa Clara, California. He is of a Polish descent.

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