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Saturday, July 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Prolific Champion Of Freedom Is Gone Youngest Thinker Brennan Reflected And Accelerated Profound Social Change.

The program for Justice William J. Brennan’s funeral Tuesday was printed with one of his favorite quotations:

“‘Did you see an old woman going down the path?’ asks Bridget. ‘No, I did not,’ replies Patrick, who had just arrived after the old woman left. ‘But I saw a young girl,’ he said, ‘and she had the walk of a queen.”’ - William Butler Yeats.

Supreme Court justices need big hearts as well as sharp minds to make wise decisions. Brennan had both. He treated the American people, particularly those whose voices usually went unheard, with dignity and respect. Woven through his astonishing legacy are the golden threads of warmth, compassion and firm belief in the rights of the individual.

This was a man who stopped off for a hot dog on the way to the White House in 1956, expecting his appointment with President Eisenhower to include neither dinner nor an invitation to join the U.S. Supreme Court. But only Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., voted against Brennan’s confirmation.

Brennan went on to serve 34 years on the Supreme Court, spanning the terms of eight presidents and writing 1,360 opinions - only William O. Douglas wrote more. “In the entire history of the Court, it would be difficult to name another justice who wrote more important opinions,” commented Earl Warren. After Brennan’s death, at 91, last week, scholars across the country agreed with that assessment. Brennan both reflected and accelerated the profound social change of his era, and saw the U.S. Constitution as alive in the 20th century as ever. “The genius of the Constitution rests not in any static meaning it may have had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and present needs,” he wrote.

Brennan, the son of an Irish Catholic immigrant, became a strong advocate for civil rights, for freedom of the press and against sexual discrimination. He remained firmly against the death penalty, and was convinced one day the rest of the country would agree.

In 1988, when Brennan was 82, legal scholar Charles A. Reich wrote, “Justice Brennan may be the Supreme Court’s senior member, but he is also its youngest thinker.” May Brennan’s thinking, based as it was on a passionate respect for human dignity, live forever.

, DataTimes MEMO: For opposing view see headline: Activist architect of so much wrong

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL - From both sides CREDIT = Jamie Tobias Neely/For the editorial board

For opposing view see headline: Activist architect of so much wrong

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL - From both sides CREDIT = Jamie Tobias Neely/For the editorial board

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