William Hubbs Rehnquist

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  2. March 24, 2014 5:24 am

William Hubbs Rehnquist

William Hubbs Rehnquist was the 16th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He served more than 33 years on the bench and nearly 19 years as Chief Justice. On President Richard Nixon’s nomination, Rehnquist became Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1972. President Ronald Reagan nominated Rehnquist Chief Justice, a position he officially took in 1986.

Born in 1924, Rehnquist grew up in an upper middle-class family in Milwaukee. He served a few years in the United States Army Armed Forces during the Second World War. On the GI Bill, Rehnquist received undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in political science from Stanford University where he also attended law school. He graduated first in his law class, the same class in which Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor graduated third.

During his tenure as Chief Justice, Rehnquist presided over President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. He was also one of the five justices who supported the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000), the case that effectively resolved the issue of whether to recount the contested votes in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. Rehnquist’s colleagues respected him because of his fair and efficient administration of court affairs. Although a conservative justice, Rehnquist showed the moderate side of him by voting with liberals to protect gay rights and the freedom of speech.

Nearly a year after receiving a diagnosis of thyroid cancer, Rehnquist died in office on September 3, 2005 at age 80. He served the fourth longest term as Chief Justice. Rehnquist wrote more than 450 Supreme Court opinions and authored four books: The Supreme Court: How It Was, How It Is, William Morrow, 1987; Grand Inquests, William Morrow, 1992; All the Laws But One, Alfred A. Knopf, 1998; and Centennial Crisis: The Disputed Election of 1876, Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

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