Franklin Burgess dies at 75; Gonzaga basketball star became federal judge

Times wire services

Franklin D. Burgess, a U.S. District judge and college basketball star who led the nation in scoring at Gonzaga University, has died. He was 75.

Burgess died Friday of cancer, Robert Lasnik, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for Western Washington, told the Tacoma News Tribune.

He led the nation in scoring in 1960-61, averaging 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,” Lasnik said. “In both venues, he distinguished himself as a person of great talent and great humility, beloved by the people he played and worked with.”

Franklin Douglas Burgess was born March 9, 1935, in Eudora, Ark. He spent one year at what is now the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff and served in the Air Force before coming to Gonzaga in 1958.

Burgess scored at least 40 points seven times at Gonzaga. He scored a school-record 52 points against UC Davis in 1961.

The Lakers drafted Burgess in the third round of the 1961 NBA draft, but he opted for the fledgling American Basketball League, a precursor to the American Basketball Assn. He played two seasons with the Hawaii Chiefs before returning to Gonzaga for law school, where he graduated in 1966.

Burgess became an assistant prosecutor in Tacoma, Wash., 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.

“What he did after he was done playing was so special,” Gonzaga Athletic Director Mike Roth told the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash. “There aren’t a lot of guys appointed by a president to be a judge. . . . He was a special, special man.”