This eventful week became all the more historic with the announcement that U.S. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist had died late on Saturday. The Chief Justice’s battle with thyroid cancer was well-known, and he died less than a year after his diasgnosis.
Nominated by President Richard M. Nixon to the nation’s high court in 1971, he was elevated to Chief Justice after he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. He served more than 33 years on the court — a life’s contribution. Funeral details have not yet been announced. President George W. Bush is to speak of the Chief Justice’s death later on Sunday.
Immediate speculation centered on how the Chief Justice’s death will affect the confirmation hearings for John Roberts, scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Of course, the larger issue is the new opening on the court and in the Chief Justice’s seat.
Here is the official statement from the U.S. Supreme Court, delivered by spokeswoman Kathy Arberg:
William H. Rehnquist, the 16th Chief Justice of the United States, died this evening at his home in Arlington, Virginia surrounded by his three children. The Chief Justice battled thyroid cancer since being diagnosed last October and continued to perform his duties on the Court until a precipitous decline in his health in the last couple of days. He is survived by his three children: Janet Rehnquist of Arlington, Virginia, James C. Rehnquist of Sharon, Massachusetts and Nancy Spears of Middlebury, Vermont; his sister, Jean Laurin of Grand Rapids, Michigan; and nine grandchildren. His wife, Natalie Cornell Rehnquist, died in 1991.
Chief Justice Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice in 1971 by President Nixon and took his seat on January 7, 1972. He was elevated to Chief Justice by President Reagan in 1986.
Plans regarding funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.
COVERAGE LINKS: The New York Times, The Washington Post, CBS News, Chicago Tribune, CNN, BBC News, Newsday, Fox News. Obituary: The New York Times.