10 Things You Didn’t Know About Anthony Kennedy

10 interesting facts about the Supreme Court justice.

By + More

1. Anthony McLeod Kennedy was born in Sacramento, Calif., on July 23, 1936. His father, Anthony J. ("Bud") Kennedy, was a lobbyist and lawyer. His mother, Gladys McLeod Kennedy ("Sis"), was a teacher and volunteer. Anthony, the second of three children, grew up in a house his father built in the Land Park neighborhood.

2. As a young child, Kennedy served as an altar boy at his Catholic church. He also worked as a page in the California State Senate, sometimes listening in on the Senate debates. Occasionally, his father would also take him to listen in on a case he was trying.

3. Kennedy's interest in constitutional law developed at Stanford University. While he finished his graduation requirements in just three years, he opted to spend a year at the London School of Economics (his father reportedly thought he was too young to start law school) before receiving his bachelor's degree in 1958. He next attended Harvard Law School, graduating cum laude in 1961.

4. Kennedy has been described as "straight-laced" or a "goody goody." His father once jokingly offered him $100 if he would do something to get himself picked up by the police, a fee he never collected. During his college years, Kennedy traveled around Europe one summer in a red Volkswagen. His father gave him a bottle of whiskey to take on the trip, which he used only for medicinal purposes (gargling with it when he felt a cold or sore throat coming on).

5. Kennedy began practicing law in San Francisco after law school. In 1963, his father died suddenly of a heart attack, at which point Kennedy returned to Sacramento to continue his father's practice.

6. Around this time, Kennedy started teaching at the McGeorge School of Law of the University of the Pacific. Kennedy so enjoyed teaching that he continued to do so part time for over 20 years. An extremely popular teacher, he reportedly does not use notes when lecturing and has been known to receive standing ovations from his students. In September 1987, he delivered a lecture attired as President James Madison (complete with powdered wig) in celebration of the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution.

7. In the early 1970s, Kennedy served on a commission drafting a proposition for the then governor of California, Ronald Reagan. Even though the proposition failed, Reagan was impressed with Kennedy's constitutional knowledge and recommended him when a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit opened up. President Ford appointed Kennedy, who took his oath on May 30, 1975.

8. In 1987, after two Supreme Court nominations by President Ronald Reagan failed to win enough support, Kennedy became the president's choice. With his "squeaky clean" image, distinguished career, and respect for precedent, he won support from both parties. In early 1988, the Senate voted unanimously to confirm Kennedy.

9. On June 29, 1963, Kennedy married Mary Jeanne Davis, a fellow Sacramento native he had known since childhood. They have three children: Justin, Gregory, and Kristin. All three attended Stanford, their parents' alma mater.

10. Kennedy was once described by the New York Times as "energetic, self-effacing, and immensely polite." He enjoys reading history and Shakespeare and is a Roman Catholic. He enjoys many recreational sports, including golf, tennis, swimming, and jogging.

Biography Resource Center Online
Chicago Tribune
Current Biography Yearbook 1988
Encyclopedia of World Biography
Los Angeles Times
The Supreme Court Historical Society