John Paul Stevens, the bow-tied, independent-thinking, Republican-nominated justice who unexpectedly emerged as the Supreme Court’s leading liberal, died Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after suffering a stroke Monday, July 15. He was 99, according to AP.
Stevens was appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1975 and had 35 years on the Supreme Court. He retired in 2010 when he was 90, opening for Justice Elena Kagan who was later appointed by former President Obama to be on the court.
Stevens played a major part in important Supreme Court decisions, including Gregg v. Georgia, the case that restore the death penalty in 1976.
Later he voiced only one regret about his Supreme Court career: that he had supported reinstating the death penalty in 1976. More than three decades later, Stevens publicly declared his opposition to capital punishment, saying that years of bad court decisions had overlooked racial bias, favored prosecutors, and otherwise undermined his expectation that death sentences could be handed down fairly, according to AP.
“He brought to our bench an inimitable blend of kindness, humility, wisdom, and independence. His unrelenting commitment to justice has left us a better nation. We extend our deepest condolences to his children Elizabeth and Susan, and to his extended family,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement.
Although appointed by a Republican president, he then gradually evolved from a centrist into a liberal, although he did not think he was a liberal in an interview with The New York Times in 2010. “I don’t think of myself as a liberal at all,” he said. “Part of it is that people overlook the distinction between being a judicial liberal and a political liberal. I think as part of my general politics, I’m really pretty darn conservative,” he added.
He is survived by two daughters, Elizabeth and Susan, who were with him when he died. Other survivors include nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Stevens’s first wife, Elizabeth, second wife, Maryan, and two children died before him. Funeral arrangements are pending, the Supreme Court said in a statement announcing his death. But he is expected to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, next to Maryan, according to AP.