Papers of Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White Opened for Research

The papers of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Byron R. White have been opened to research through the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. At the time of his deed of gift, White specified that the papers were to be opened without restriction 10 years after his death. White died on April 15, 2002, at the age of 84.

The White papers, which total 183,500 items in 858 boxes (361.4 linear feet), document cases heard during his tenure on the Supreme Court, including material on cases involving the Miranda law, abortion, child pornography, freedom of speech, homosexuality and racial bias. A finding aid to the collection is accessible on the Library’s website.

White (1917-2002) was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. He served until his retirement in 1993, after more than three decades on the court. That year White gave the final installment of his papers to the Library of Congress, where they joined the papers of 39 other associate justices and chief justices of the court, including John Marshall, Roger B. Taney, Charles Evans Hughes, Thurgood Marshall, Earl Warren, Harry Blackmun and Hugo Black.

White’s dissenting opinion in Miranda v. Arizona (1966) opposed the court’s ruling that people who are arrested must be told of their constitutional right against self-incrimination before police may question them.

White issued a dissent to the landmark 1973 case of Roe v. Wade that established a constitutional right to abortion. He suggested that decision was “an exercise in raw judicial power” and he criticized the court majority for “interposing a constitutional barrier to state efforts to protect human life.”

White’s majority opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick, which he wrote for the court in 1986, stated that consenting adults have no constitutional right to private homosexual conduct and legislatures can make such conduct illegal.
White’s majority opinion in Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, written in 1989, established criteria for the use of statistical evidence by workers claiming racial bias.

In the 1992 Mississippi desegregation case, United States v. Fordice, White’s majority opinion was that to desegregate state-run colleges and universities, a state has a responsibility to do more than simply “[abolish] the legal requirement that whites and blacks be educated separately and [establish] racially neutral policies.”

Other landmark cases in which White wrote opinions include the New York Times v. United States, in which he concurred that the government could not enjoin the New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers; Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, in which White concurred in part and dissented in part in the Court’s decision that numerical quotas in support of affirmative action were unconstitutional; Griswold v. Connecticut, in which he wrote a concurring opinion that a state law proscribing contraception violated married couples’ due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment; and Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha, in which he dissented from the Court’s ruling that the legislative veto was unconstitutional.