William Rehnquist: And the Chief Justice Rules in Favor of … Mischief
(Supreme Gavel-Flinging: 1972-2005)
Despite all outward late-in-life appearances, Rehnquist had a notorious wily streak. In his early days on the Court, he used to sport some serious chops to go along with his flashy ties, and he liked to egg on his clerks to mock his predecessor, Chief Justice Warren Burger, whom he found utterly pompous. Actually, his tight-knit clerk relationships are legendary. One of them remembers playing charades at Rehnquist’s house one night, mystified to behold “the chief act out ‘Saving Private Ryan’ crawling under his coffee table, pointing his fingers like a gun, and mouthing ‘pow, pow!’” Of course, in light of new FBI reports that described the drug-addicted justice running around Ricky Bobby-style in pajamas and screaming about a CIA plot, the charades thing doesn’t seem so strange.
Thurgood Marshall: Proof that Smarts Don’t Equal Good Taste
(Supreme Gavel-Flinging: 1967-1991)
The first African-American justice on the Court, Marshall is one of the most important Civil Rights figures of the 20th century. His lengthy resumes includes: attending university with Langston Hughes and Cab Calloway (at Lincoln University in Pa.), successfully arguing Brown v. Board of Education before the Supremes, and generally chipping away at the bogus “separate but equal” clause in Plessy v. Ferguson. Then again, Marshall was also an incorrigible “Days of Our Lives” junkie, known to take an hour’s break to watch it.
William O. Douglass: Take My Fourth Wife. Please.
(Supreme Gavel-Flinging: 1939-1975)
William Douglas is undoubtedly the high court’s greatest scoundrel. He worked his way through four wives (the last three young enough to be his daughters) and a great many other women (he had a particular fancy for flight attendants). One time, he even had to stuff his not-yet fourth wife into the closet of his Supreme Court office when his third wife unexpectedly showed up, suspecting foul play. Oh, and Congress tried to impeach Douglas on four separate occasions using an array of charges, citing everything from shady business dealings to senility.
Sandra Day O’Connor: Ride ‘em, Cowgirl!
(Supreme Gavel-Flinging: 1981-2006)
Now that the first female Court member (who briefly dated William Rehnquist at Stanford Law) is retired, she has plenty of time for her other hobbies. For instance, she can drive her car (license plate: USSC102, since she’s the U.S. Supreme Court’s 102nd member) to Jazzercise class (she used to run a course for clerks at the Supreme Court gym) or to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas, where she was inducted in 2002. Beats reviewing cert memos.
Hugo Black: Klansman with a Heart of Gold
(Supreme Gavel-Flinging: 1937-1971)
History seems to have forgiven Black his early dalliances with the KKK. As a member of the Klan between 1923 and 1926, it’s said that Black, being from Alabama, needed the group’s support for his law practice and Senate run. And while some fuss was rightfully kicked up over this fact, Black ended up being a truly courageous Supreme Court jurist, supporting Brown v. Board of Education and serving as a champion of pro-Civil Rights legislation. Further complicating his legacy, however: He ordered the destruction of his court papers, in a move his wife called “Operation Frustrate the Historians.”
The article above is reprinted from the March - April 2007 issue of mental_floss magazine (excellent issue! Get it at the bookstore), featured on Neatorama in partnership with mental_floss.
Be sure to check out mental_floss' fantastic website and blog: