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Article ID: 4869
Age Group: Adult
Posted: October 28th. 1997
William J. Brennan, Jr
This week marked the passing of one of the greatest proponents of civil liberties that this country has ever produced. Former Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., the son of a struggling Irish immigrant, arose from the depths of near poverty to become the ultimate defender and friend of the "common man and woman". Appointed to the Court by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, he spent the entire 34 years of his term fighting to uphold what he saw as the government's obligation to protect the inherent worth and dignity that resides within each individual human being.
"There are few people who are truly extraordinary and we don't always know the reasons why they rise above the rest of us. But he did, " U.S. appeals court judge Richard S. Arnold of Little Rock, who was a law clerk to Brennan in 1960, said yesterday.
One reason as to why this would be so is the sheer number of precedent setting decisions in which he took part. He offered over 1000 opinions for the Court on everything from the rights of minorities to the protection of the individual's right to dissent in a free society.
"Today, most Americans take it for granted that the Bill of Rights protects us from government interference in our lives, "said Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union. "History will give Justice Brennan much of the credit for rekindling the spirit of liberty in America."
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said, "Justice Brennan was one of the great friends of freedom, freedom for those who have it and freedom for those who yet must seek it."
But perhaps even for more than his impact on the interpretation Constitutional law, Brennan will be remembered as a man of humor, honor and humanity.
As Supreme Court Justice David Souter tearfully remarked, "Quite simply, Justice Brennan is a man who loves. The Brennan mind, which held a share of the judicial power in the United States, has met its match in the Brennan heart."
And so, as we say a final farewell to William Brennan, perhaps the greatest Supreme Court Justice of this century, we must also pay tribute to Brennan, the man. For to a man, he valued his fellow men and women; and as a man, he did whatever he could to uphold their human dignity and divine spirit.
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