ELCA NEWS SERVICE
September 6, 2005
U.S. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Prominent Lutheran, Dies
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States and member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), died Sept. 3 of thyroid cancer at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 80.
Rehnquist's body will lie in repose Sept. 6-7 in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court of the United States. A funeral will be conducted Sept. 7 at St. Matthew's Cathedral, Washington, D.C. Burial at Arlington National Cemetery will be private.
Rehnquist was a member of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, McLean, Va.
"Chief Justice Rehnquist never took his faith for granted. It was strong, central and, like him, without pretense. He was a genuine Lutheran Christian," said his pastor, the Rev. George W. Evans Jr.
"He managed to keep his Sundays free for activities like the church. He was a student in Redeemer's Evening Forum series on Lutheran faith and teachings, participating in that alongside his high school age granddaughter," Evans said. "He was a fabulous grandfather."
"Chief Justice Rehnquist's interests, span of knowledge, quick wit and understandings were large. I came to regard him as a genuine 'Renaissance Man.' His questions were honest, discerning and unassuming. He kept learning and growing. He was our brother in Christ," his pastor said.
"Our nation is saddened today by the news that Chief Justice William Rehnquist passed away last night," U.S. President George W. Bush said in a Sept. 4 statement. "Laura and I send our respect and deepest sympathy to this good man's children, Jim, Janet and Nancy. We send our respects to all the members of the Rehnquist family," he said.
Rehnquist "was extremely well respected for his powerful intellect. He was respected for his deep commitment to the rule of law and his profound devotion to duty. He provided superb leadership for the federal court system, improving the delivery of justice for the American people and earning the admiration of his colleagues throughout the judiciary," Bush said.
"Chief Justice William Rehnquist served the U.S. Supreme Court with integrity and dedication. During his 33-year career on the Supreme Court -- 19 as Chief Justice -- Justice Rehnquist streamlined the court's operation. He will be remembered for presiding over the court during historic events in our nation's history. Among them, he presided over an impeachment trial, and he presided as the court made the final decisions of the 2000 presidential campaign," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA.
"During his tenure his opinions reflected his convictions as well as his commitment to the judiciary. In recent months he remained faithful to his calling as Chief Justice despite his illness with thyroid cancer. As presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I extend sympathies to his family and friends, and thank God for this humble and faithful servant," Hanson said.
"The Chief Justice had a deep and abiding sense of the importance of religion for this nation and its people, and over the past three decades he has led a change in the constitutional law of church and state that now allows that importance to be recognized," said Robert Tuttle, professor of law, George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C. Tuttle co-authored "Church and State: Lutheran Perspectives."
"In his years on the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice has been the nation's leading proponent of 'professionalism' among lawyers -- a particular kind of legal ethics that focuses especially on civility and decorum," Tuttle said. "He understood that the authority of law depends on an appropriate respect for the law's dignity. And this meant respect for and by those who administer it, including judges, lawyers, clerks and litigants ... respect shaped with a touch of reverence and awe," he said.
Born Oct. 1, 1924, in Milwaukee, Rehnquist attended public schools in Shorewood, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee, and graduated from Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., and Stanford Law School. He served in the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1943 to 1946. He was a law clerk for Justice Robert H. Jackson of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1951-1952.
Rehnquist practiced law in Phoenix from 1953 to 1969. President Richard Nixon appointed him assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel, in 1969 and to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1972. President Ronald Reagan nominated him in 1986 to be the nation's 16th Chief Justice.
In 1953 he married Natalie Cornell Rehnquist, who died in 1991. Natalie Rehnquist had served eight years as director of volunteer services at the National Lutheran Home for the Aged, Rockville, Md.
In 1998 Rehnquist took part in briefings hosted by the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs and the ELCA Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Synod for Lutheran bishops. The Chief Justice said a sense of God's call to his vocation kept him going.
"God put you on earth to do a job. Every day is a gift of God. You plow into your work," said Rehnquist. "You may have problems -- physical, emotional -- but you have the sense that God is looking after you."
Rehnquist announced in October 2004 that he had thyroid cancer, and he dismissed questions about his retiring from the court.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org