Reviewer: 'Full of facts, not emotion'
'The Man Who Once Was Whizzer White'
Free Press, $30
by Dennis J. Hutchinson
Review by Ann Hastings
Web posted on: Wednesday, July 15, 1998 1:09:16 PM EDT
(CNN) -- Supreme Court scholars will enjoy "The Man Who Once Was Whizzer White" by Dennis J. Hutchinson for its comprehensive list of opinions. But readers will not learn very much about Byron White, the man.
Hutchinson writes an exhaustively researched book on the life of Byron White that reads like a grocery list of events. At least the author warns us early in the book that White hates the press and historians. When contacted by Hutchinson, White offered no help or hinderance. Lacking personal information or insight, the author is left to find every fact, no matter how trivial, to explain Byron White. In the end, the only insight we gain of White is that he interprets the constitution literally and he hates his college nickname, "Whizzer".
Byron White's life has been extraordinary; college football All American, NFL player, Rhodes Scholar, assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Supreme Court Justice. The author drains any introspection or emotion out of the events and fills the book with needless details. If you want a detailed analysis of the career of the University of Colorado's football coach during the 1930s, this is your book.
White is notoriously closed-mouthed about his private life. He shredded most of his papers dealing with his judicial career. The author is unable to give emotional or social context to White's life or his judicial career.
White sat on the bench during some of the most turbulent years of the Court; he wrote the dissent for Roe v. Wade. Yet the author can offer no insight to this dissent other than White's literal interpretation of the Constitution. The ramifications of White's career are not addressed at all.
I admire the author for his thorough research and his attempt to chronicle a remarkable life. Yet this attention to detail has drained the book of emotion. If you are looking for a list of opinions during White's career, this is the book for you. Any insight into the man and his motivation will not be found.
Ann Hastings taught history for three years before joining CNN NewsSource as an archivist.