Sandra Day O’Connor, retired associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, died on Friday in Phoenix.
O’Connor grew up in Arizona on the Lazy B, a 198,000-acre cattle ranch straddling the southern Arizona and New Mexico border, before attending Stanford University at just 16 years old.
By 1965, O’Connor was working full-time as an assistant state attorney general in Arizona, where she served for four years before being elected to the Arizona State Senate in 1969. She was re-elected to her seat twice and quickly became well-known in the state.
In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed O’Connor to the Supreme Court. The Senate unanimously confirmed her.
“It is the body to which all Americans look for the ultimate protection of their rights. It is to the U.S. Supreme Court that we all turn when we seek that which we want most from our Government: equal justice under the law,” said O’Connor in her opening statement during her confirmation hearing.
While a Supreme Court justice, O’Connor authored 676 opinions. Some 301 of those were officially the Opinion of the Court.
O’Connor retired in 2006 but remained a prominent figure in the judicial world. For instance, she spent time as a board member for the American Bar Association’s Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative.
Former President Barack Obama recognized O’Connor’s contributions by awarding her the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on August 12, 2009.
Chief Justice John Roberts said in a Supreme Court press release about her death that O’Connor was a “[a] daughter of the American Southwest,” adding that she “blazed an historic trail as our Nation’s first female Justice.”
“She met that challenge with undaunted determination, indisputable ability, and engaging candor,” he said. “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.”
Multiple leaders across Texas have also reacted to the news of O’Connor’s death.
Gov. Greg Abbott posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, calling O’Connor “a trailblazer and inspiration.”
“I had the honor to argue before Justice O’Connor at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 as Texas AG,” he wrote. “I admired her tenacity and dedication to precisely researched jurisprudence.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton also shared his thoughts on X, saying that he was “[s]addened to hear of the passing” of O’Connor.
“She was appointed by President Reagan, and her legacy will always be remembered. Prayers today for her family from a thankful nation for her service,” he wrote.