Infostani Sources- In 1996, when graduates of Austin High School in El Paso returned for their 50th reunion, they received a pleasant surprise—Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, their most famous classmate and the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, joined them.
O’Connor, born in El Paso on March 26, 1930, passed away at the age of 93 on Friday. Five years prior, she withdrew from public life after being diagnosed with the early stages of dementia. Although remembered by many as an Arizonan due to her extensive career there, O’Connor’s roots in El Paso, where she attended Radford School for Girls and Austin High School, made her a source of pride for Texans as well.
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser expressed condolences, calling Justice O’Connor “El Paso’s daughter” and a trailblazer. O’Connor’s high school friend, Gayle Welsch, reminisced about her outstanding student days, noting her fiery spirit and natural leadership that would later serve her well on the Supreme Court.
Sandra Day O’Connor: From Ranch Life to Supreme Court Trailblazer
Growing up on the Lazy B Ranch in southeast Arizona, O’Connor learned practical skills like driving a truck and firing a .22 rifle. After graduating sixth in her class from Austin High in 1946, she attended Stanford University, earning a degree in economics. Following this, she pursued law at Stanford Law School, where she met her future husband and classmate William H. Rehnquist.
Returning to Arizona after law school, O’Connor delved into Republican politics. In 1969, she was appointed to replace an Arizona state senator and subsequently won reelection for two terms. Her political career soared as she became the first woman to hold the position of Senate majority leader in any state in 1972.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: Trailblazer and Advocate’s Enduring Legacy
O’Connor’s journey continued with a state judgeship, an appointment to the Arizona Court of Appeals, and ultimately a Supreme Court nomination in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan. Confirmed unanimously by the Senate on Sept. 21, 1981, she served as a Supreme Court justice for 25 years. Gaining recognition as a moderate “swing vote” with a reluctance to author broad sweeping rulings.
Known for her advocacy for equal protection under the law, O’Connor’s influential opinions included a concurring opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, a landmark case supporting gay rights. Texans celebrated her ties to the state. Honoring her with inductions into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2008 and the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2002. Multiple schools in Texas, including a criminal justice magnet school at Austin High, bear her name.
Governor Greg Abbott, who argued before Justice O’Connor in 2005 as Texas attorney general. Reflected on her trailblazing legacy, describing her as a “trailblazer” and an ongoing inspiration for women. State Rep. Eddie Morales, Jr., representing El Paso, urged others to join him in sending prayers to the O’Connor family. Emphasizing the enduring impact of her commitment to the law and the U.S. Constitution.