Before the Steel Curtain, Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann, the Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the most legendary figures both on and off the field.
Byron White, on the field known as “Whizzer White,” had a storied career off the field. His story seems to be somewhat forgotten in Pittsburgh Steelers history as we tend to look back at the 1970s Steelers and not before then.
Byron White’s story as a football player goes back to before the Steelers were even called the Steelers. In the 1930s they were known as the Pittsburgh Pirates, not to be confused with Pittsburgh’s current baseball team.
White’s football career was a success at the University of Colorado. He was an all-American and was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He then went on to play professional football and first was famous for being the highest paid football player of the time earning $15,000.
He also was the leading rusher in 1938. However, he stepped away from the game of football to pursue service in the Navy and a storied law career. There is a belief that Byron White was not comfortable being the highest paid football player.
After the Navy, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University and continued his educational success graduating magnum cum laude from Yale Law school. He was also successful in high school, graduating at the top of his class and being student body President. His educational success brought him into the legal field where he was influential in American history and became a Supreme Court Justice.
His politics were controversial. He was a Democrat, but his view may be categorized today as conservative. He was one of the two votes that did not want to overturn Roe vs. Wade. With his long tenure on the Supreme Court, he was involved in many influential cases.
Whether or not you like his political views, he was a supporter of the Freedom Riders movement. This movement was aimed at fighting segregation laws and was an early action for the Civil Rights movement. He did this as deputy attorney general to Robert F. Kennedy and was famous for going against Alabama governor John Patterson who did not favor more protections for the Freedom Riders Movement.
As fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, there is much to be celebrated on the field. Six Super Bowls and countless Hall-of-Fame players are not taken lightly. However, there is still so much lore to this football team’s history that goes before the storied Steel Curtain.