Judge played basketball for Hawaii Chiefs


POSTED: Monday, March 29, 2010

TACOMA, Wash. » A federal judge is being remembered as a star in the courtroom and on the basketball court.

U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess, who played basketball for Gonzaga University and also played two seasons with the Hawaii Chiefs, died Friday after battling cancer. He was 75.

The 6-foot-1 native of Eudora, Ark., led the nation in scoring in 1960-61, when he averaged 32.4 points per game during his senior season at Gonzaga. His No. 44 jersey is one of two retired by the university; the other belongs to NBA great John Stockton.

“;He was a legend on two courts,”; Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik said in Seattle. “;In both venues he distinguished himself as a person of great talent and great humility, beloved by the people he played and worked with.”;

Burgess scored at least 40 points seven times at Gonzaga, and his 52-point effort against California-Davis in 1961 remains a school record.

The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Burgess in the third round, but he opted instead for the fledgling American Basketball League, a pre-cursor to the American Basketball Association, where he played two seasons with the Hawaii Chiefs before returning to Gonzaga for law school.

Burgess graduated near the top of his class and became an assistant prosecutor in Tacoma, where he once chased down a defendant who fled a courtroom. After a stint in private practice, he became a federal magistrate judge in 1981 and was elevated to the District Court bench in 1994. All along, he continued playing basketball with other Tacoma lawyers at the old YWCA.

Burgess became more involved with Gonzaga basketball over the last 12 years, attending games when he could and meeting with players in the locker room, said athletic director Mike Roth.

“;What he did after he was done playing was so special,”; Roth told The Spokesman-Review in Spokane. “;There aren't a lot of guys appointed by a president to be a judge. And giving back—until he got sick, he worked every Wednesday for Habitat for Humanity. He'd get in his jeans, strap on the tool belt and out he went. He was a special, special man.”;

Memorial arrangements are pending.