2016-02-17 / Features

Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice, Dead At 79


Antonin Scalia, who grew up in Elmhurst and eventually became the first Italian- American person appointed to the US Supreme Court, died in his sleep last Friday while on a hunting trip in Texas.

At his death at 79; Scalia was the longest serving Justice on the court – 30 years, from 1986 when he was appointed by then- President Ronald Reagan – to 2016.

He is survived by his wife, Maureen, and their nine children.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said in a statement issued Saturday: “He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the court and the country he so loyally served. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his family.”

Scalia was born on March 11, 1936 in Trenton, N.J. to Salvatore, an immigrant from Sicily, and Catherine Scalia, a daughter of Italian immigrants, and the family moved to Elmhurst when Antonin was 6. He attended PS 13, according to an article in New York Magazine in 2013. He and his friends were active youths, playing sports games on the street all day he recounted.

Scalia recounted that Elmhurst had the feel of a country town and there was plenty of space to play games like street hockey or softball. There were a lot of vacant lots that dotted the landscape and Scalia and his friends or family would camp out in pup tents and in the winter they would go sledding down the hills.

Also descriptive of Scalia’s upbringing here in Queens, he noted being exposed to the many different ethnic backgrounds of his fellow classmates. There were Greeks, Irish, Germans, Jews and Italians.

According to the New York Times, Scalia then attended Xavier High School in Manhattan and then Georgetown University in Washington, DC. A bright student, he was valedictorian at his high school graduation and first in his class at Georgetown. He attended Harvard Law School and graduated magna cum laude.

Scalia practiced law in Cleveland for six years, taught law at the University of Virginia for four years after that, and then in 1974, President Richard M. Nixon appointed him to head the Office of Counsel in the Justice Department, which advised the executive branch on the law. After Nixon resigned, Scalia held the post for three years and then resigned.

Reagan was elected president in 1980 and Scalia was interviewed for several jobs, but missed connections several times. In 1982, he finally scored with an appointment to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which was regarded as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.

Four years later, then-Chief Justice Warren Burger retired and President Reagan nominated Scalia to replace him, and he was confirmed by a vote of 98 to 0.

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