- NAME: William Rehnquist
- OCCUPATION: Supreme Court Justice
- BIRTH DATE: October 01, 1924
- DEATH DATE: September 03, 2005
- EDUCATION: Kenyon College, Stanford University, Harvard University, Stanford Law School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- PLACE OF DEATH: Arlington, Virginia
- Full Name: William Hubbs Rehnquist
- AKA: William Rehnquist
Best Known For
William Rehnquist was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Richard Nixon in 1971. He was elevated to the post of chief justice by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. He remained chief justice until his death in 2005.
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Born in Wisconsin in 1924, William Rehnquist became chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1986. After 1989, when a "new right" majority had been established by President Reagan, Rehnquist framed a series of conservative rulings on abortion, affirmative action and capital punishment. During his tenure as Chief Justice,
Rehnquist also presided over the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton and the Bush v. Gore election decision. He died in 2005 in Virginia.
Born William Donald Rehnquist on October 1, 1924, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, William Rehnquist was the son of a paper salesman, and briefly attended Kenyon College in Ohio before serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. He never saw any combat; he was stationed in North Africa as a weather observer.
After the war ended, Rehnquist received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in political science from Stanford University. He went on to receive his master's in government from Harvard University and his law degree from Stanford Law School. He graduated at the top of his class in 1952—his future colleague Sandra Day O'Connor was third in that same class at Stanford.
From 1952 to 1953, Rehnquist worked as a law clerk for Justice Robert H. Jackson. During that time, he wrote a controversial memo that defended the Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which supported the separate-but-equal approach to segregation. Rehnquist later claiming it reflected Justice Jackson's views and not his own. From 1953 to 1969, Rehnquist was in private practice in Phoenix, Arizona and became active in the Republican Party. He returned to Washington in 1968 after President Richard Nixon took office.
Rehnquist served as Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel from 1969 to 1971. In this capacity, he supported such controversial measures as pre-trial detention and wire-tapping, impressing President Nixon, who appointed him Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1971. But some civil rights leaders and members of Congress were less than enthuastic about the potential new justice and grilled him on his past, including his memo on the Plessy v. Ferguson. Despite being considered a right-wing extremist by his opponents, Rehnquist easily secured the majority of votes needed to approve his confirmation.
Rehnquist took his oath of office on January 7, 1972. He soon proved himself to be most conservative of Nixon's appointees, voting against legalized abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Rehnquist was one of the two dissenters in that famous case. Over the years, he earned the nicknames "Lone Ranger" and "Lone Dissenter" for his willingness to vote in his line with his own political and legal beliefs. To this end, Rehnquist voted against school desegregation and in favor of school prayer, capital punishment and states' rights.
When Chief Justice Warren Burger retired in 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Rehnquist to fill the position, and the Senate confirmed his appointment 65-33. His associate justice seat was filled by Antonin Scalia.
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The Supreme Court has presided over landmark cases that have changed the history of the United States. At times, the judges themselves have been the history makers, as in the case of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Justice; Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court; and Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Here’s a look at the famous judges who have served on the United States' highest court.
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