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In the News: William Rehnquist
William Rehnquist was in the news in Scholastic News Editions 3, 4 , 5/6, and Junior Scholastic on September 26, 2005

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist
(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Wide World)
William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, died September 2 at the age of 80. His death left the first vacancy on the United States Supreme Court in 11 years. In July, Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor gave the President a resignation letter, but promised to say in her position until a replacement was appointed.

Rehnquist's death sped up the process of naming a new Justice. The fall session of the Court begins October 3. President Bush quickly named federal Judge John Roberts, whom he initially named to replace O'Connor, to be the new Chief Justice. Work to push the nomination through began as the country mourned Rehnquist. President Bush spoke at the Chief Justice's funeral.

"We remember the integrity and the sense of duty that he brought to every task before him," the President said. In announcing Rehnquist's death, Bush also spoke about the nation's 16th Chief Justice and his background.

Rehnquist was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1924. He was educated at Stanford University, earning his bachelor's and master's degrees in political science. Rehnquist also received a master's degree in government from Harvard University in 1950 and graduated first in his class at Stanford Law School.

In December 1971, President Richard Nixon nominated Rehnquist for Associate Justice. The following January he began his 33-year career on the Supreme Court. When former Chief Justice Warren Burger retired in 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated him as Burger's replacement.

Rehnquist presided over a court that was split over conservative and liberal lines. Most of the split votes were decided by O'Connor, who was the fifth vote on many important decisions. It was Rehnquist's court that stopped the Florida recount in 2000. That decision gave George W. Bush the presidency.

The Supreme Court announced that Rehnquist had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer in October 2004. His health problems raised concern about whether he had plans to retire soon, and who should replace him. He swore in President Bush to a second term of office in January. He continued to work until his last day.

"He honored America with a lifetime of service and America will honor his memory," President Bush said at the White House the day after Rehnquist died.