Hoover Institution gets papers of late Chief Justice Rehnquist

Courtesy of Stanford Law School Justdocs

William Rehnquist, far left, who served as chief justice of the United States for nearly two decades, poses for a picture taken in 1981 at an event celebrating the confirmation of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court.

William H. Rehnquist

William H. Rehnquist

The papers of William H. Rehnquist, who served as the country's chief justice from 1986 until his death in 2005, have been donated to the Hoover Institution Archives.

Rehnquist earned his bachelor's, master's and law degrees from Stanford and was a member of the Hoover Institution Board of Overseers before being nominated to the Supreme Court by President Richard Nixon in 1971. He was sworn in as an associate justice in early 1972, and was nominated as chief justice 14 years later by President Ronald Reagan. Only seven other justices exceeded his 33 years on the court.

The Rehnquist collection includes case-related materials, speeches, personal correspondence, drafts and notes on the many books he wrote, as well as in-chambers correspondence among the justices. Portions of the collection will remain closed indefinitely, but some sections of the collection will be made available to researchers.

The papers from the 1972 and 1973 Supreme Court terms will be opened to researchers on Nov. 17. Papers from the 1974 Supreme Court term and Rehnquist's correspondence files from 1972 through 2005 will be opened by Jan. 5, 2009.

Some of Rehnquist's personal material, memorabilia and artifacts have been sent to the Rehnquist Center at the University of Arizona.

"Chief Justice Rehnquist's collection will enhance Hoover's reputation as a major repository for materials on the U.S. government during the latter part of the 20th century, and we believe researchers will find it to be an important resource for examining judicial decision making covering the chief justice's more than 30 years on the Supreme Court," said Hoover Director John Raisian. "We are pleased that Chief Justice Rehnquist's papers are coming full circle back to Stanford, where he began his illustrious legal career."

Born in 1924 and raised in Milwaukee, Rehnquist served in the Army Air Force in North Africa during World War II. After the war, he attended Stanford on the GI Bill and met his future wife, Natalie, also a Stanford student. He graduated at the top of his law school class, which included Sandra Day O'Connor, who served as an associate justice from 1981 until 2006.

Rehnquist served as a law clerk to Justice Robert H. Jackson on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1951 to 1952, and practiced law in Phoenix from 1953 to 1969. He was an assistant U.S. attorney general from 1969 to 1971.

A conservative who held a narrow interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, Rehnquist earned respect for reducing the number of cases the court agreed to hear, streamlining conferences and seeking clear, strongly reasoned opinions.

He was one of two dissenters in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established abortion rights.

In 1999, Rehnquist became the second chief justice in history to preside over a presidential impeachment hearing—that of President Bill Clinton, who was acquitted.

A statement from the Rehnquist family said: "We are pleased to donate our father's papers to Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Stanford is where our parents met as college students, and, though they spent their last decades in Washington, their hearts were always in the West."