Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who blazed trails as the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court, has died, the court announced December 1.
O’Connor, 93, died due to “complications related to advanced dementia,” the court said.
O’Connor inspired generations of female lawyers — including the five women who served after her nomination on the high court. They admired her path marking success in a field that had been dominated by men. Over time, she became known as a moderate conservative and often the swing vote on hot-button social issues.
She died after living to see a new conservative-leaning court overturn an abortion decision she helped pen in 1992, lower the bar between church and state and set its sights on another area of interest to her: affirmative action.
Chief Justice John Roberts described O’Connor as a “patriot” and a “fiercely independent defender of the rule of law, and an eloquent advocate for civics education.”
President Joe Biden, meanwhile, hailed her as “an American icon.”
“I did not agree with all of her opinions, but I admired her decency and unwavering devotion to the facts, to our country, to active citizenship and the common good,” Biden said in a statement earlier this month.
In 2018, O’Connor revealed in a letter that she had been diagnosed with the beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease.
“While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings of my life,” she wrote.
In nominating O’Connor for the bench in 1981, President Ronald Reagan called her “truly a person for all seasons, possessing those unique qualities of temperament, fairness, intellectual capacity, and devotion to the public good which have characterized the 101 brethren who have preceded her.”
Read more about O’Connor’s legacy.