Byron ‘Whizzer’ White, Wellington’s Most Famous Resident 

(Photo by Brian Graves)

Annie Lindgren | Sunshine Ink LLC

While not everyone in Wellington has heard of Byron ‘Whizzer’ White, that is about to change thanks to a collaborative project between Wellington Library, Wellington Main Streets Program, Scout Troop 96, and a local teen determined to see the project through. Wellington’s most famous resident is gaining a Memorial Garden,  unveiled on June 15, 2024, at the Leeper Center.

(Photo by Brian Graves)

Byron Raymond White was born on June 8, 1917, in Fort Collins, Colorado, and raised in Wellington. His childhood home is located at 3735 Roosevelt Ave. He attended Wellington High School and worked odd jobs to support his family, including harvesting beets, shoveling coal, and doing construction work. Byron graduated in 1934 as class valedictorian with the highest grades in the Wellington High school’s history.

Byron’s father, Al, was a branch manager at the lumber supply company (building still standing at 8141 Cleveland Ave), and served as Mayor of Wellington for a year.  Byron and his older brother, Sam, grew up working in the sugar-beet fields surrounding Wellington, then a community of “about 350 God-fearing souls,” Byron told Sports Illustrated in a 1962 interview.

 Byron was a prominent American figure who made significant contributions as a professional athlete and a jurist. Before pursuing a legal career, he gained fame as a football player, being a consensus All-American halfback for the Colorado Buffaloes and playing professionally for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Lions. His on-field excellence earned him the nickname “Whizzer,” which continued to be associated with him despite his later accomplishments in the legal field. After his sports career, White attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and then Yale Law School, where he briefly interrupted his studies to serve as an intelligence officer in the Pacific Theater during World War II, receiving two Bronze Stars for his service.

(Photo by Brian Graves)

His unique approach and contributions marked Whizzer’s legal career. He served as a law clerk for Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of the U.S. Supreme Court and later returned to Colorado to practice law. His involvement in John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign led to his appointment as the Deputy Attorney General. In 1962, Kennedy nominated White to the Supreme Court, where he served as an Associate Justice until his retirement in 1993. His legal philosophy, often pragmatic and fact-driven, emphasized the specific details of each case rather than adhering to a rigid ideological framework. This approach shaped over nine-hundred opinions, leaving a lasting impact on areas such as criminal law, civil rights, and the free press.

Whizzer died of pneumonia on April 15, 2002, at 84. His remains are at All Souls Walk at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver. Whizzer married Marion Stearns in 1946, and they had two children, Charles and Nancy. Whizzer’s brother, Sam, who also grew up in Wellington, had an impressive career as a valedictorian and later became a physician and medical researcher.

Whizzer’s legacy is a testament to the power of perseverance and dedication. From a small Colorado town, he embarked on a journey leading him to the United States’ highest court. His life story serves as an inspiring example of how diverse experiences and unwavering commitment can shape a person’s ability to contribute to society in multiple fields. Whizzer’s influence continues to be felt, both in the legal world and in Colorado, where he is remembered as a hometown hero and a national figure of significance.

In honor of his achievements, Carter Larsen, with the help of Scout Troop 96, created a learning garden outside of the Wellington Library. This Eagle Scout Project was made possible by generous donors and volunteers and the enthusiastic support of the Wellington Main Street Program and Ross LaGenese, Wellington Library Director.

Carter Larsen, who started this project during his Junior year of Highschool, shares “This project means so much to me. As a Scout, it is my duty to give back to the community and inspire others and I could not think of a better way to do so.  I am proud to think that I can have a small role in inspiring the future generations of Wellington.  Creating a learning garden and memorial for Supreme Court Justice Byron White showed me the power of community by everyone coming together to create something magical.”

Content Credits:

Barksdale, R. H., Ebel, D. M., Liebman, L., & Fried, C. (1993). A Tribute to Justice Byron R. White.

True Whig Party | political party, Liberia | Britannica.

Support Northern Colorado Journalism

Show your support for North Forty News by helping us produce more content. It's a kind and simple gesture that will help us continue to bring more content to you.

BONUS - Donors get a link in their receipt to sign up for our once-per-week instant text messaging alert. Get your e-copy of North Forty News the moment it is released!

Click to Donate