William Hubbs Rehnquist died on September 3, 2005 at the age of 80, he was an American lawyer, jurist, and political figure who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and later as the 16th Chief Justice of the United States.
Considered a conservative, Rehnquist favored a conception of federalism that emphasized the Tenth Amendment’s reservation of powers to the states.
Born William Donald Rehnquist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 1, 1924, he grew up in the suburb of Shorewood.
His father, William Benjamin Rehnquist, was a sales manager at various times for printing equipment, paper, and medical supplies and devices; his mother, Margery Peck Rehnquist—the daughter of a local hardware store owner who also served as an officer and director of a small insurance company—was a local civic activist, as well as translator and homemaker.
Rehnquist graduated from Shorewood High School in 1942. He attended Kenyon College, in Gambier, Ohio, for one quarter in the fall of 1942, before entering the U.S. Army Air Forces.
He served from March 1943 – 1946, mostly in assignments in the United States. He was put into a pre-meteorology program and assigned to Denison University until February 1944, when the program was shut down.
He served three months at Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma City, three months in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and then went to Hondo, Texas for a few months.
He was then chosen for another training program, which began at Chanute Field, Illinois, and ended at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. The program was designed to teach the maintenance and repair of weather instruments.
In both his 1971 Senate confirmation hearing for Associate Justice and his 1986 hearing for Chief Justice of the United States, Rehnquist testified that the memorandum reflected the views of Justice Jackson rather than his own views.
Rehnquist said, “I believe that the memorandum was prepared by me as a statement of Justice Jackson’s tentative views for his own use.”
Elsie Douglas, long-time secretary and confidante of Justice Jackson, stated during Rehnquist’s 1986 hearings that his allegation was “a smear of a great man, for whom I served as secretary for many years.
Justice Jackson did not ask law clerks to express his views. He expressed his own and they expressed theirs.
Rehnquist took his oath of office on January 7, 1972. He soon proved himself to be the 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 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.
In 2000, he was one of the supporters of the Supreme Court decision that ended the fight to recount contested votes in Florida in that year’s presidential election in the Bush v. Gore case.
Although he was expected to push the Supreme Court in a more conservative direction during his tenure, the Rehnquist court specifically declined to overrule Roe v. Wadeand Miranda v. Arizona.