Colorado’s First Supreme Court Justice

Neil Gorsuch of Boulder had been nominated to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court. We will leave the jokes about how they found a conservative in Boulder for our guides. Since we at Banjo Billy’s like to educate people about history, we would like to familiarize you with the first Supreme Court Justice from Colorado, Byron “Whizzer” White.


Byron White was born in Fort Collins, CO in 1917, and raised in the nearby town of Wellington. He was not only the Valedictorian of his school of his high school class, but an outstanding athlete as well. White attended the University of Colorado on a scholarship available to all Valedictorians in the state.  At CU, he was the perfect model for the student-athlete. White graduated Phi Beta Kappa and won a Rhoades Scholarship, while also being an All American halfback for the Buffaloes. He led the Buffs to their first ever bowl game appearance in the Cotton Bowl in 1937 after and 8-0 regular season ( The Buffs lost to Rice). He also played basketball and baseball, and was class president.

White was the 4th pick in the NFL draft upon graduation, and delayed his Rhoades Scholarship a few years while he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates (now the Steelers). While at Oxford he became friends with Joe and John Kennedy, who’s father was Ambassador to England.  He graduated from Yale Law school and practiced law in Denver for 15 years.

In 1960 White used his popularity in Colorado to campaign for John F. Kennedy. He then served as Deputy Attorney General for Kennedy (Robert Kennedy was Attorney General) and was instrumental in protecting the Freedom Riders in 1961. He became the first and, so far, only Supreme Court Justice from Colorado in 1962 at the age of 44, and served until 1993.

And the nickname “Whizzer”? As you might guess, that was given to him by a sports reporter in Boulder because of his play on the football field.

If you like history and a good laugh, then you need to take our Denver and Boulder tours  on the wonderful Banjo Billy Bus.  YEEE HAAAWWW, your Honor!

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