April 15, 2002
Yale Law School Community Mourns the Death of Byron R. White '46
Retired Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White '46 died on Monday, April 15, in Denver, Colorado, of complications from pneumonia.
He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy, who declared that White "excelled in everything he has attempted." White's judicial career spanned from the liberal Warren Court to the conservative Rehnquist Court and was one of the longest of the 20th century by the time he retired in 1993. He was always an independent and thoughtful jurist.
Before attending Yale Law School, White was a Rhodes Scholar and renowned football player. Named an All-American out of the University of Colorado (he was also valedictorian of his class), he later led the National Football League in rushing in two separate seasons.
White served in the Navy during World War II. He clerked for Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of the Supreme Court in the 1946-7 term and then worked in a Denver law firm for fourteen years. He entered government service as deputy attorney general in Robert Kennedy's Justice Department, and was named to the Supreme Court one year later.
Yale Law School Dean Anthony T. Kronman said, "The law has lost a champion. During his thirty-one years as a justice of the Supreme Court, Byron White never wavered once in his commitment to the rule of law and worked with patience and goodwill to make its promise a reality for the American people. He will be missed by all who knew and worked with him, and by the larger public he sought to serve."