Rehnquist death leaves second vacancy
Since October, Rehnquist aggressively battled his cancer, undergoing a tracheotomy as well as chemotherapy and radiation. He continued to work from home, conferring with fellow justices and writing opinions. He returned to the bench, physically diminished but his mental powers uncompromised, in March.
While formal and often stern on the bench, Rehnquist's demeanor off the bench stood in stark contrast, says his former law clerk Charles "Chuck" Cooper, now a Washington, D.C., lawyer. "People could get the wrong impression that he is stiff and formal and abrupt. That's anything but the case."
He was a man of broad interests, dabbling in oil painting, meteorology, choral singing and theater. Rehnquist, an amateur historian, wrote four booksincluding "Centennial Crisis: The Disputed Election of 1876," about the nation's first contested presidential election. He played tennis and played bridge and poker with a regular group. Former clerks said he loved to have friendly office bets on bowl games. "He'd bet you on which way the car in front of you was going to turn," Cooper said.
Garnett says his former boss, who had a summer home in northern Vermont, loved the Green Bay Packers, March Madness and Miller Lite. Rehnquist once missed a State of the Union address because his art class was meeting.
His unpretentiousness and personal affability was legendary among his former clerks and Supreme Court workers. University of Virginia Law School Dean John Jeffries recalls Rehnquist attending a dinner for the school's 175th anniversary in 2001and wearing a nametag.
Some people may not have liked Rehnquist's positions, court watchers say, but it's difficult to find someone who didn't like the man himself. "We are in a time when our society and our courts are deeply divided on ideological issues," says Chemerinsky, the Duke law professor. "I think Bill Rehnquist will be remembered as a truly good, decent man who presided over the court in a fair and gentle manner during a divisive time. He will be missed for that."
A widower, Rehnquist is survived by three children and eight grandchildren.