On my first visit to the Supreme Court, I was doing the normal touristy things. While gawking at the majesty of it all and marveling at the spiral staircases, I caught a glimpse of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she walked through a hall just past where us tourists were roped off from the off-limits part of the building.
I was starstruck. RBG was my living legend, a hero for women and — I would later fully appreciate when I started having children — for working parents throughout the United States.
Her biographies are numerous, though I’m partial to the ones we did at the ABA Journal featuring her legal profession and women’s rights trailblazing and, more recently, examining her status as a pop culture icon.
Like her unlikely longtime friend the late Antonin Scalia, RBG was generous with her time for the ABA Journal, maybe because she served on its board of editors in the 1970s while she was arguing ground-breaking gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court. She was a stalwart advocate for the rule of law and for civil rights, spearheading the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.
Ginsburg agreed to numerous interviews over the years and her family graciously participated in the “Family Ties” cover story that my former colleague Stephanie Francis Ward wrote.
While she didn’t participate in Stephanie’s “Supreme Icon” cover feature, she loved the piece. We know because she wrote to Sara Wadford, the artist who designed the cover, to compliment her and request additional copies for her family.
This was a bigger ask than I’d initially anticipated. The issue was so popular, we ran out of copies in the office. We quickly located a box and I shipped her the copies with my own personal note thanking her for making Sara’s day. Admittedly, she made my day too.
The partisan rancor is already high and RBG’s death, leaving a prized Supreme Court seat vacant, has already upped the volume and the tension.
While everyone loses their minds on Capitol Hill, I will remember Ginsburg’s kind nature. And I will remember her loving intellectual friendship with Scalia, a civility model on so many levels.
Back when I caught my first glimpse of her, Ginsburg was frail-looking even then. Yet she persevered more than 25 years longer, through heartbreaking personal loss and battles with cancer to help shape the high court and the law of the land.
She was an inspiration throughout her life. Her legacy will continue to inspire for generations to come.