Rehnquist, William H., 1924-2005

Alternative names
Birth 1924-10-01
Death 2005-09-03

Biographical notes:

Associate justice, 1972-1986, and chief justice, 1986-2005, United States Supreme Court.

From the description of William H. Rehnquist papers, 1947-2005. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754864782


Born on 1 October 1924 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, William Hubbs Rehnquist served in the Army Air Corps in North Africa during World War II. Once the war ended he attended Stanford University where he received a B.A. in political science. He then earned master's degrees from both Stanford and Harvard, before completing Stanford Law School in 1952. After completing law school, Rehnquist served as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson.

Rehnquist married Natalie Cornell, whom he had met at Stanford during his law school years, on 29 August 1953. They had three children. Rehnquist practiced law in Phoenix, Arizona, from 1953 to 1969, becoming active in Republican politics. Joining President Richard Nixon's administration in 1969 as head of the office of legal counsel in the Justice Department, in October 1971, President Nixon nominated Rehnquist to be an associate justice on the Supreme Court.

Rehnquist served as an associate justice until 1986, when President Ronald Reagan nominated him to replace retiring Chief Justice Warren Earl Burger. Rehnquist was the sixteenth Chief Justice, serving more than 30 years on the Supreme Court. He has the distinction of serving as the second Chief Justice in U.S. history to preside over an impeachment trial of a president, in 1999. A notable decision in Rehnquist's tenure as chief justice was Bush v. Gore (2000), which effectively decided the 2000 presidential election for George W. Bush by stopping the recount of contested ballots in Florida.

As Chief Justice, Rehnquist stated that his goal was to be remembered as a good administrator. Known for his strong leadership, conservative interpretation of the Constitution, and decisions enhancing the power of the states in the federal system, Rehnquist retained his conservative perspective throughout his tenure on the Court. Ill with thyroid cancer, Rehnquist served as Chief Justice as long as his health permitted. He died on September 3, 2005, in Arlington, Virginia, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Resources: "William Rehnquist" in American Decades 1990-1999. Tandy McConnell, ed. Gale Group, 2001 in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008. Accessed 3 November 2008. "William Rehnquist" The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives. Ed. Arnold Markoe, Karen Markoe, and Kenneth T. Jackson. Vol. 7: 2003-2005. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2007 in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008. Accessed 3 November 2008.

From the guide to the William H. Rehnquist Papers, 1968-2005, (Hoover Institution Archives)


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  • United States (as recorded)
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