The University of Arizona

William H. Rehnquist

Rehnquist swearing in ceremony
"I nominated William Rehnquist because I believe he will be a Chief Justice
of historic stature." President Ronald W. Reagan, September 26, 1986

Biographical information William Hubbs Rehnquist was born October 1, 1924, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of William Benjamin Rehnquist and Margery Peck Rehnquist.  He attended public elementary and high schools in Shorewood, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee.  From 1943 to 1946 he served in the United States Army Air Forces and was discharged with the rank of sergeant.  He received a B. A. and an M. A. from Stanford University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, in 1948.  He received an M. A. from Harvard University in1950.  In 1952, he received an LL. B. from Stanford University.

After graduating from Stanford, Rehnquist served as a law clerk to Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson of the Supreme Court of the United States, from February 1952 to June 1953.  Following his clerkship, he entered the private practice of law in Phoenix, Arizona, where he practiced from 1953 to 1969, with primary emphasis on civil litigation.  In January 1969, President Richard M. Nixon appointed Rehnquist Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice.

On October 21, 1971, President Nixon nominated him Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, to replace Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan.  He was confirmed by the Senate on December 10, 1971, and was sworn in on January 7, 1972.  President Ronald Reagan nominated him Chief Justice of the United States on June 20, 1986, to replace Chief Justice Warren E. Burger.  He was confirmed by the Senate on September 17, 1986, and sworn in on September 26, 1986.

Rehnquist was the author of four books:  The Supreme Court: How It Was, How It Is, William Morrow, 1987; Grand Inquests, William Morrow, 1992; All the Laws But One, Alfred A. Knopf, 1998; and Centennial Crisis: The Disputed Election of 1876, Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

He was married to Natalie Cornell of San Diego, California, who died October 17, 1991.  They had three children, James, born 1955; Janet, born 1957; Nancy, born 1959. Chief Justice Rehnquist died on September 3, 2005, at his home in Arlington, Virginia.

Service on the Supreme Court William H. Rehnquist served as the 16th Chief Justice of the United States, the 89th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and the 100th Member of the Court.  He was sworn in as an Associate Justice on January 7, 1972 and as Chief Justice on September 26, 1986.  He served for 33 years and 8 months on the Supreme Court, and as Chief Justice for 18 years and 11 months. photo

Rehnquist served with 16 other Justices during his tenure on the Court:  Chief Justice Warren E. Burger; Justice William O. Douglas; Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.; Justice Potter Stewart; Justice Byron R. White; Justice Thurgood Marshall; Justice Harry A. Blackmun; Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr.; Justice John Paul Stevens; Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; Justice Antonin Scalia; Justice Anthony M. Kennedy; Justice David H. Souter; Justice Clarence Thomas; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; and Justice Stephen Breyer.

He ranks fourth among the longest serving Chief Justices:  (1) John Marshall (34 years, 5 months); (2) Roger Brooke Taney (28 years, 6 months); (3) Melville Fuller (21 years, 8 months); (4) William H. Rehnquist (18 years and 11 months).


Rehnquist served as a law clerk for Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson during the 1951 and 1952 Terms, from January 26, 1952 through July 18, 1953.  A total of 105 law clerks served the Chief Justice from 1972 through 2005.

Rehnquist wrote 458 Opinions of the Court and Announcing Judgment; 376 dissenting opinions; 96 concurrences; 33 opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part; 37 statements and separate opinions; and 110 in Chambers opinions.

Opinions Majority opinions
Dissenting opinions
Concurring opinions
Opinions concurring in part, dissenting in part
Statements and separate opinions
In Chambers opinions

Photo Information:
Top: Richard Hofmeister, Smithsonian Institution, Courtesy of the Supreme Court of the United States. Retired Chief Justice Warren E. Burger (1969-1986, in robes) administers the Constitutional Oath to the new Chief Justice, William H. Rehnquist at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on September 26, 1986.  Holding the bible is Mrs. Natalie Rehnquist; President Ronald Reagan watches from the right.

Bottom: Official informal group photograph of the Supreme Court as composed under Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, taken in the West Conference Room in August of 1972. The Justices are arranged around a table below the John Marshall portrait. The portrait of Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite is to the left and one of the chandeliers is visible above. From left to right are: Justices Harry A. Blackmun, Potter Stewart, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, William H. Rehnquist, Byron R. White, William O. Douglas, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger (leaning on table), and Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Robert Oakes, National Geographic Society, Courtesy of the Supreme Court of the United States.