The Supreme Court announced this morning that retired Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who left the bench in 2006, has died at the age of 93.
The Court, in a statement, said O’Connor died in Phoenix, Arizona, “of complications related to advanced dementia, probably Alzheimer’s, and a respiratory illness.”
“A daughter of the American Southwest, Sandra Day O’Connor blazed an historic trail as our Nation’s first female Justice. She met that challenge with undaunted determination, indisputable ability, and engaging candor. We at the Supreme Court mourn the loss of a beloved colleague, a fiercely independent defender of the rule of law, and an eloquent advocate for civics education. And we celebrate her enduring legacy as a true public servant and patriot,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in the Court’s statement.
O’Connor was nominated to the bench in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan. The Senate unanimously confirmed her appointment on September 21, 1981, in the first televised hearings for a nominee, making her the first female justice. She went on to serve more than 24 year on the Court, retiring in 2006.
Graduating magna cum laude with a B.A. in economics from Stanford University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School, O’Connor was in public service for nearly 30 years before her confirmation to the Supreme Court.
She served as deputy county attorney of San Mateo County, California, and civilian attorney for the Quartermaster’s Corps in Frankfurt, Germany. She also practiced law in Maryvale, Arizona, and served as assistant attorney general of Arizona.
When a seat in the Arizona state Senate became vacant in 1969, O’Connor was appointed to fill it, and was subsequently re-elected to two terms. She was elected judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court and served until 1979, when she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Among the more prominent of those opinions were Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey (1992), Virginia v. Black (2003), McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003), Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004).
Since retiring from the Supreme Court, O’Connor focused on promoting civic education. In 2009, she launched Our Courts, which later became iCivics, a nonprofit organization that engages children in meaningful civic learning.
O’Connor served on the board of numerous organizations, including the College of William and Mary, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the American Bar Association Museum of Law, the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools. She was a Trustee Emeriti on the National Constitution Center Board of Trustees.
“She was one of America’s greatest advocates for civic education and we were so fortunate to work with her and iCivics to promote civil dialogue. May her memory inspire America to live up to our best ideals,” said National Constitution Center president and CEO Jeffrey Rosen