President Bush hailed William H. Rehnquist's "integrity and sense of duty" today, as mourners paid tribute to the late chief justice of the United States in a service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Northwest Washington.
"Many will never forget the sight of this man, weakened by illness, rising to his full height and saying 'Raise your right hand, Mr. President, and repeat after me,' " Bush said. He referred to Rehnquist's appearance to administer the oath of office at Bush's second-term inauguration on Jan. 20, three months after the chief justice first learned he had thyroid cancer.
Bush said Rehnquist "stood apart for his powerful intellect and clear convictions," earning "a place among our greatest chief justices."
Like Ronald Reagan, who elevated him to chief justice, Rehnquist "was kindly and decent, and there was not an ounce of self-importance about him," Bush said. "He was a renaissance man, a man who adored his family, a man who always kept things in balance."
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, recalling her old friend's leadership of the Supreme Court for more than 18 years, said in a separate eulogy that, like the expert horsemen on the ranch where she grew up, Rehnquist "guided us with loose reins and used the spurs only rarely."
For the most part, however, the chief justice's official persona was not the focus of the two-hour service. Instead, the mourners -- including the president and first lady Laura Bush, Vice President Cheney and his wife, all eight associate justices of the Supreme Court, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate, federal judges, dozens of the chief justice's former law clerks and members of his Lutheran congregation -- heard more personal tributes.
Hardly any mention was made of the many opinions he had written on the court, or of the deep impact on the law he made in a Supreme Court tenure that spanned more than 33 years.
Rather, speaker after speaker recalled the chief justice's rich personal and family life, a life that was, as they told it, free of conflict but full of jokes, family vacations and parlor games.
What emerged from the eulogies was a kind of parallel biography, little known to the public, and separate and distinct from his amply documented official record. And clearly, Rehnquist had left as much of an impact on his loved ones as he did on the country -- if not more.
"To say that family came first with my Dad is to say there was competition. There wasn't," said Nancy Spears, his daughter. She spoke of her father's ability to enjoy the small things in life, from "a ripe pear" to "a distant view of the mountains."
Rehnquist first suspected his illness when he found that he couldn't sing hymns at church, according to Rev. George W. Evans, pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean, Va., where Rehnquist attended services for many years.
Evans also said that as recently as "a week ago Monday," Rehnquist was still planning to return to the court for the term that begins Oct. 3.
Perhaps the most touching account of Rehnquist's family life came from his granddaughter, Natalie Ann Rehnquist Lynch, who has the same first name as Rehnquist's late wife.
She read from a letter she had written to him earlier this summer, noting that the chief justice had asked her to read it at his funeral.
Lynch, a high school student, spoke of Rehnquist's passion for croquet games with his grandchildren and his taste for baloney sandwiches made with jelly and mayonnaise.
He would offer a "shiny quarter" to any child who could memorize all 50 state capitals, and taught them that they could sometimes improve their chances at cards by looking at a reflection of their opponent's hand in a window.
Rehnquist's son, James, said that "no one smelled the roses more than my Dad." He said that, during Rehnquist's time in Washington, he made it home for dinner with his family by 7:15 p.m. For half a century, Rehnquist had never missed a performance of Handel's Messiah at Christmas time.
He also revealed that Rehnquist, "vaguely dissatisfied" with law practice in 1968, bought a house in Colorado, "built a weird boat," and took his family for a summer of picking fruit alongside migrant workers.
James Rehnquist said his father considered making the change of lifestyle permanent, but changed his mind and eventually went to Washington in 1969 as assistant attorney general in the Nixon administration.
O'Connor recalled in her eulogy that she first met Rehnquist when both were undergraduates at Stanford University, and Rehnquist worked as a bus boy in her dormitory.
"He amazed all the young women by carrying such heavy loads of dishes on his tray," O'Connor said. "I guess that is how he learned to carry all those heavy loads in all the years that followed." She said Rehnquist "was clearly the brightest student in our class."
As chief justice, she said, "he never twisted arms to get a vote on a case. He relied on the power of his arguments." Drawing on her own upbringing on a ranch, O'Connor likened Rehnquist to an accomplished horseman.
"The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then they guide the horse with loose reins and very seldom use the spurs," she said. "So it was with our chief. He guided us with loose reins and used the spurs only rarely to get us up to speed with our work."
She also recalled fondly that Rehnquist loved to wager on everything from sporting events to elections, and "even on the amount of snow that would fall in the courtyard at the court." She added, "He usually won."
After the service, the flag-draped wooden coffin bearing the body of Rehnquist was driven to Arlington National Cemetery for a private burial.
At the request of Rehnquist's family, television cameras were barred from the cathedral. Nor was there any live audio coverage.
Upon arrival at St. Matthew's, the casket was carried by eight of Rehnquist's former law clerks past the eight Supreme Court justices who served with him.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, welcomed those attending the funeral and praised Rehnquist as a "loving father and husband, an outstanding legal scholar, a tireless champion of life and a true lover of the law," the Associated Press reported. McCarrick said the chief justice was "in every sense, a great American."
Before the funeral, the body of Rehnquist, who died Saturday night at age 80 from thyroid cancer, lay in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court for two days, as thousands of people filed by his coffin to pay their last respects. Among the last to view the coffin there were members of the U.S. Senate, who praised Rehnquist's tenure on the Supreme Court and his handling of the court's business and personalities.
"He kept the members of the court together, despite their many differences," said Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio).
Moments before the coffin was removed from the Supreme Court, ministers from the Northern Virginia church Rehnquist attended, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean, bowed their heads in prayer. "We thank you for the role that he has played in our lives, his influence among us," said Rev. Jeffrey M. Wilson, associate pastor of the church.
Although Rehnquist was a Lutheran, his family requested that the funeral service be held at St. Matthew's because there was more space in the Roman Catholic church, which seats about 2,000.
Rehnquist is entitled to burial at Arlington National Cemetery because of both his position on the Supreme Court and his service in the U.S. Army during World War II. His burial was the last of 29 scheduled today at the cemetery, whose Web site listed him simply as an Army sergeant. "William H. Rehnquist, Sgt., USA," the funeral schedule said.
Rehnquist's wife, Natalie Cornell Rehnquist, who died in 1991 of ovarian cancer at age 62, is buried at Arlington National. The tombstone over her grave also lists her husband's name, with open spaces for the date of his death and the last year of his tenure as chief justice.
President Bush has nominated John G. Roberts Jr., a federal appeals court judge, to replace Rehnquist as chief justice, and Senate confirmations hearings are scheduled to start next week. Roberts was originally named by Bush to replace Justice O'Connor, who announced in July that she would retire upon confirmation of her successor.
After Rehnquist lost his long battle with cancer on Saturday, Bush decided to elevate Roberts to chief justice and choose someone else later to replace O'Connor.