Buck Compton: 1921-2012
Feb. 27, 2012
Lynn "Buck" Compton, who played on UCLA's first Rose Bowl team and later served as a paratrooper for the 101st Airborne Division on D-Day, died Saturday night at his home in Burlington, WA. He was 90.
Compton was a football and baseball letterwinner at UCLA in the early 1940s, before enlisting in the U.S. Army. As an athlete, Compton was a starting catcher for the Bruins, playing alongside Jackie Robinson in 1940. In football, he played offensive guard in 1941 and '42.
The 1942 UCLA football team became the first in school history to defeat USC (14-7), the first to win a conference championship and the first to advance to the Rose Bowl. In beating USC, the '42 Bruins also became the first team in the rivalry to secure the Victory Bell.
In the Army, Compton was assigned to Company E of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Just after midnight on June 6, 1944, Easy Company paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines prior to the D-Day land assault in Normandy, France. First Lt. Compton, under the direction of Maj. Richard Winters, landed near an enemy bunker and rooted a German battery of four 105 mm howitzers that were firing on Utah Beach. Compton was awarded the Silver Star for his action in disabling the enemy encampment.
Later in 1944, Compton was injured while participating in Operation Market Garden. He recovered well enough to return to Easy Company in time for the Battle of the Bulge, surviving the frigid winter at Bastogne.
He earned more than a dozen medals, among them the Purple Heart, a Presidential Unit Citation with one Oak Leaf Cluster and a French Liberation Medal.
In 2001, Easy Company's heroism was brought to life in the epic HBO mini-series, Band of Brothers.
Compton returned to UCLA, and in 1946 was penciled in as the starting guard on a talented Bruins' football team laden with battle-tested former servicemen. Before Spring Practice that year, he turned in his uniform to pursue his ambition to attend law school at Loyola.
While attending law school, he got a job as an LAPD officer, later finished his law studies and was admitted to the California Bar in 1949. He served as a Los Angeles district attorney from 1951 until 1970.
Among his more notable cases, Compton was the lead prosecuting attorney in the 1968 Sirhan Sirhan trial, responsible for imprisoning the man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy. The Democratic Senator from New York was gunned down at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles while campaigning for president. Sirhan eventually was sentenced to the death penalty, but later saved by the State's 1972 commutation of all death row inmates to life sentences.
In 1970, governor Ronald Reagan appointed Compton to the bench of the California Court of Appeals, where he served until his retirement in 1990.
A member of the UCLA Baseball Hall of Fame, Compton is survived by his two daughters Tracy and Sydnee, and four grandchildren. A public services is pending.
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