Sandra Day O’Connor, first woman on Supreme Court, dies at 93

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the nation’s highest court, died Friday, officials said. She was 93.

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In a statement released Friday, the Supreme Court said O’Connor died in Phoenix of “complications related to advanced dementia, probably Alzheimer’s, and a respiratory illness.”

“As President Reagan said when first introducing her to the American people, she was a woman for all seasons,” the statement read.

Plans for her funeral were not immediately released.

“A daughter of the American Southwest, Sandra Day O’Connor blazed an historic trail as our Nation’s first female Justice,” Chief Justice John Roberts said Friday.

“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.”

Born in El Paso, Texas, on March 26, 1930, O’Connor graduated from Stanford Law School near the top of her class in 1952 but struggled to find work because of her gender. She eventually convinced the county attorney in San Mateo County, California, to take her on as a deputy county attorney, a role she held for one year.

In 1954, while her husband John Jay O’Connor II was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, with the Army Judge Advocate General Corps, she served as a civilian attorney with the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps. She returned to the the Southwest to practice law in 1957, settling in Phoenix.

From 1965 to 1969, she served as Arizona’s assistant attorney general. She left that role after being appointed to a vacant seat in the Arizona State Senate and subsequently won reelection twice. In 1972, she became the first woman in America to serve as majority leader in a state legislature.

In 1975, she successfully ran to become a trial judge on the Maricopa County Superior Court, a role she held until then-Gov. Bruce Babbitt appointed her to the Arizona Court of Appeals in 1979. Two years later, President Ronald Reagan nominated O’Connor to serve on the Supreme Court.

She spent 24 years as a justice, from 1981 until her retirement in 2006.

After leaving the bench, O’Connor founded civics education platform iCivics.

She is survived by her sons Scott (Joanie) O’Connor, Brian (Shawn) O’Connor, and Jay (Heather) O’Connor; six grandchildren, Courtney, Adam, Keely, Weston, Dylan and Luke; and her brother, Alan Day, Sr.


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