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Justice Sandra Day O'Connor memorialized in National Cathedral funeral service

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Today Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was laid to rest at the National Cathedral.

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MARIANN BUDDE: We receive the body of our sister, Sandra Day O'Connor, for burial.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Biden delivered remarks memorializing the justice's historic nomination.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: More than 40 years ago, on a Wednesday in September 1981, the Senate Judiciary Committee came to order. I was the ranking member of that committee. And the day's business was momentous, the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to become the first woman in American history to serve as a Supreme Court justice on the United States Supreme Court.

KELLY: O'Connor served on the Supreme Court for 24 years. After announcing her retirement in 2005, John Roberts was nominated to fill a vacancy in the court. Roberts had worked with O'Connor's team during her confirmation hearings when he was a young attorney at the Department of Justice.

CHANG: He says it was during this time that she impressed upon him a central maxim of her philosophy as a public servant - get it done. And it's a lesson she reinforced in the brief time they overlapped on the court.

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JOHN ROBERTS: She and I were discussing a case in chambers. And I think she grew tired of my on the one hand and on the other hand. She simply got up and said, you just have to decide. There was impatience in her voice, but I don't think it was entirely due to me. She had made her own decision about the future and announced her retirement six months earlier. I think she was anxious to get it done.

KELLY: Next to speak was O'Connor's youngest son, Jay. He recounted his mother's love of reading, which he said transported her to other worlds from her Arizona ranch. He said that love of reading ultimately led her to Stanford University.

CHANG: And it's no surprise that the justice was a star in school, Jay said. But while sorting through some of his mother's papers, he found a box of report cards from middle and high school.

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JAY O'CONNOR: Of course, her marks were sterling, until I was shocked to see something, a B, a scarlet B. And imagine what class it was in - civics. Sandra Day O'Connor once got a B in civics.

KELLY: Finally, he read from a letter that Justice O'Connor left for her sons to read near the end of her life. In a parting message, she wrote to them...

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O'CONNOR: (Reading) Our purpose in life is to help others along the way. May you each try to do the same. Our purpose in life is to help others along the way. What a beautiful, powerful and totally Sandra Day O'Connor sentiment.

CHANG: That was Jay O'Connor eulogizing his mother, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Her funeral was today at the National Cathedral in Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF GAVIN LUKE'S "NIGHT WALK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kai McNamee
Tinbete Ermyas