WASHINGTON - Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has died, the court confirmed. He was 99.
When he retired from the Supreme Court on June 29, 2010, he had served for 34 years and six months, making him the second-oldest serving justice in the history of the court, and the third-longest serving Supreme Court justice in history. Had he served just three days more, he would have tied for the second-longest serving justice in history.
Stevens was known during his tenure on the Supreme Court to be one of the more liberal voices, even though Stevens said, “I don't think of myself as a liberal at all,” in a 2007 interview with the New York Times.
Stevens was known for championing causes like abortion rights, gay rights and rights for the disabled, but he also opposed affirmative action in its early years and voted to reinstate capital punishment. Throughout his career, Stevens was very vocal about the need for unbiased and fair officials within the judicial system to maintain a functional democracy, and he worked diligently to set this precedent through his work.
Born April 20, 1920 in Chicago to Ernest James and Elizabeth Street, John Paul Stevens grew up in a wealthy family, but that wealth was mostly lost during the Great Depression after his father was convicted of embezzlement. The charge was eventually overturned, and it was Stevens’ first experience with the flaws in the legal system.
Stevens joined the U.S. Navy and served from 1942-1945 during WWII, where he received a Bronze Star for his service as part of the codebreaking team that downed Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's plane in 1943.
After returning from the war, Stevens decided to pursue a law degree from Northwestern and was able to do so with funding from the G.I. Bill. He graduated in 1947 magna cum laude.
Stevens attended the University of Chicago’s law school and graduated in 1947 having earned the highest GPA in the history of the university.
Stevens got his start in the judicial system as a clerk to Supreme Court Associate Justice Wiley Rutledge from October 1947 to July 1948, before being admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1949.
For the next two years, Stevens worked as an associate for the Chicago law firm Poppenhusen, Johnston, Thompson and Raymond, but eventually started his own practice, Rothschild, Stevens, Barry & Meyers in 1952 with a few other men he met while working for the Poppenhusen firm. Stevens specialized in antitrust law and focused on this during his year of private practice and beyond.
In 1951, Stevens went to Washington to serve as Associate Counsel on the Subcommittee on the Study of Monopoly Power of the Judicial Committee of the U.S House of Representatives. From 1953-1955, he served as a member of the Attorney General's National Committee to Study Antitrust Laws, and in 1969 he became Chief Counsel to the Special Commission appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to investigate the integrity of the judgement of People v. Isaacs.
President Richard Nixon nominated Stevens to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 1970, and Stevens was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in on Nov. 2, 1970.
President Gerald Ford then nominated Stevens to Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme court in 1975, and Stevens was confirmed by the Senate with a unanimous (98-0) vote before being sworn in on Dec. 19, 1975.
Stevens held the position of Supreme Court Justice for the next 34 years and six months. He retired on June 29, 2010.