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Farewell to the Chief

Temperatures were in the ’80’s in Washington, D.C., September 6th and, after the Labor Day weekend, the nation’s capitol was bustling with people returning to work.

But this did not deter the long lines of friends, people who knew him, and many who knew of him from waiting patiently to bid farewell to the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. When I arrived at the Supreme Court building at 2:30, the lines of mourners who came to see Rehnquist lie in state stretched all the way down two flights of steps, and filled an entire sidewalk on 1st Street NE. Overall, it took one hour for me to make it down the street, up the stairs, and then finally into the rotunda of the court.

There the flag-draped coffin of the 16th chief justice in U.S. history lie, flanked by two uniformed servicemen and two court employees in business suits. Busts of Rehnquist’s historic predecessors such as William Howard Taft, Charles Evans Hughes, and John Marshall looked down on the last person to hold the highest judicial office in the U.S. A portrait of Rehnquist–resplendant in the signature robes with stripes that he had designed himself–greeted those who came to pay their respects.

Perhaps the most moving story was in those who came to the court. While many did indeed know the chief justice, there were easily just as many who had only read of him or had a passing acquaintance with the man who served on the Supreme Court for 33 yars (the last 19 as chief justice). One lady, a lawyer from BNA, Inc. in Washington whom I met in line, recalled to me how she felt Rehnquist was "one of the most impressive people of our time" and an unforgettable figure. Did she know him, I wondered? "Not really," she replied, "He was a surprise guest at a board meeting of a group a friend of mine was involved in. He made a strong impression when he spoke and was most attentive when I met him." Because of the impression he made and the resultant admiration, she explained, she came to pay her respects to William Rehnquist.

Written By

John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ? and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ? and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â? video interviews that appear on Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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