In reviewing the life of former Supreme Court Justice Byron White, there is a grave injustice in understating what this ‘man for all seasons’ accomplished. As a high school senior, he graduated at the top of his class in Wellington, CO, not far from Ft. Collins. He also secured a nice scholarship to play football at the top college in the state, the University of Colorado in Boulder.
This young man would graduate at the top of his class in Boulder, while also accepting a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University. But not before receiving the highest salary in the history of the NFL at that time. Then, to top it off, he would become the first rookie to lead the league in any category. One of the greatest of that era, scholastically and athletically. Yeah, Byron White. What? Never heard of him? Ahhh…well, you would not be alone there.
You see, having only named a few of Mr. White’s many achievements, this is not what that young man will be remembered for…unfortunately. What Byron White will be remembered for happened much later in his life. It came even many years after President John F. Kennedy successfully nominated White to be an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court in 1962. So with all of this going for him, why haven’t you heard of him? Well, it has everything to do with what he WILL be remembered for. You see, Justice White became the scourge to may on the left, along with their partners in crime, the mainstream media (MSM), for being the loudest dissenting voice on the 1973 landmark decision of Roe vs. Wade.
This was a ‘high crime’ punishable by making him obsolete, and in the process sweeping all of this great American’s accomplishments under the collective rug! So since the MSM won’t be talking about him in language that isn’t conspicuous, I’ll be more than happy to bring you up to speed…
After a short time studying at Oxford, White returned to the U.S. While enrolled at Yale University law School in 1939, White recorded the highest grades of the freshman class. He was then appointed to a highly sought after job on the Law Review. But he declined in order to “play football and make some money instead “, he later recalled. White played the 1940-1941 season with the Detroit Lions, then continued law study during the summer at the University of Colorado. White signed another pro football contract for 1941-1942. But after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Navy. During World War II, White was a naval intelligence officer in the South Pacific, winning two bronze stars for courage in action. He also renewed his acquaintance with another decorated officer, PT-boat commander John F. Kennedy, whom he first had met at Oxford.
And though he was a Kennedy-appointed justice, Byron White would soon develop a reputation as an independent spirit- an image that would be upheld by his voting record and correspondence during his time in the SCOTUS. Before the historic twin cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, Justice White displayed his knack for going against the grain when it came to his decisions and opinions. The high profile case of Miranda vs. Arizona was an early indication of the justice developing a reputation as a wildcard. White did not want to place constitutional restrictions on officers. Justice White argued that the court had no “factual and textual bases” in the U.S. Constitution or in previous opinions of the court for the new rule.
“I have no desire whatsoever to share the responsibility for any such impact on the present criminal process,” White wrote. “In some unknown number of cases, the court’s rule will return a killer, a rapist or other criminal to the streets and to the environment which produced him, to repeat his crime whenever it pleases him … ”
“As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has authority to do what it does today; but, in my view, its judgment is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court.”
-Excerpt of Supreme Court Justice Byron White from his dissent of the landmark case of Roe vs. Wade, January 22, 1973
By the time the case of Roe v. Wade was argued by the justices, you would have thought the democrat nominated Byron White would have supported Roe. But as it turns out, he was only one of two justices (along with Justice William Rehnquist), that opposed the landmark case. Another surprise was the final vote for this historic case brought before the court. The vote on Roe vs. Wade was 7-2. Those justices supporting the case’s pro-abortion outcome were as follows (including the president nominating each and the president’s party affiliation):
- Harry Blackmun (Nixon, R)
- Warren Burger (Nixon, R)
- William Douglas (FDR, D)
- William Brennan (Eisenhower, R)
- Potter Stewart (Eisenhower, R)
- Thurgood Marshall (LBJ, D)
- Lewis Powell (Nixon, R)
Those dissenting on Roe vs. Wade — only two – and both were not Republican-president-nominated to the Court:
- Byron White (Kennedy, D)
- William Rehnquist (Nixon, R; chief justice under Reagan, R)
But what if the Republican-leaning court would have rejected Roe v. Wade? And what if they would have listened to the scathing dissent of Justice White? Millions of lives would have been saved without question. But listen to the words of Byron White when speaking about the legal arguments for Roe. It is very surreal now to hear these words:
“At the heart of the controversy,” White proclaimed, “in these cases are those recurring pregnancies that pose no danger whatsoever to the life or health of the mother but are, nevertheless, unwanted for any one or more of a variety of reasons—convenience, family planning, economics, dislike of children, the embarrassment of illegitimacy, etc. The common claim before us is that, for any one of such reasons, or for no reason at all,and without asserting or claiming any threat to life or health, any woman is entitled to an abortion at her request if she is able to ﬁnd a medical adviser willing to undertake the procedure.” These arguments are still a major concern along with every decision point that goes into choosing to abort a child.