Because of incorrect information provided by the Supreme Court, an article yesterday incorrectly identified Zeph Stewart, brother of the late justice Potter Stewart. He is a Harvard professor and the newly appointed director of the Harvard-administered Center for Hellenic Studies here.
Friends and family of retired Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, who died Saturday of a stroke, gathered yesterday in the Washington Cathedral to remember him not so much for his legal skills as for his warmth and keen wit.
Stewart, an Eisenhower Republican who served 23 years on the bench before retiring in 1981, had, longtime friend George Bush said, an ability to "keep an eye on what counts -- his family."
Because of that, the vice president added, Stewart "said a sane thing" -- that he wanted to spend more time with his children and grandchildren -- and retired at the relatively young age of 66. That "balance" of personal and professional lives is something "public men and public women often find difficult" to maintain, Bush noted.
He recalled that Stewart was voted the "class wit" at Hotchkiss preparatory school in Connecticut, that he believed the Cincinnati Reds "invincible" and that Stewart's great-grandfather, a Mississippi steamboat captain, would have been proud of "Potter's forceful, though erratic, approach to driving his car on Palisade Lane" near his home here.
Zeph Stewart, a former Harvard professor of Hellenic studies, spoke of growing up as his older brother's "accomplice, his dupe and his admiring audience."
"Potter was a master of practical jokes," he said. "It was I whom he persuaded to put the dead frog in the salad bowl." His brother also fancied himself something of a magician, Zeph Stewart said, carrying around a pack of trick cards, always challenging his friends to "Cut! Cut!"
Former White House counsel Lloyd N. Cutler, another longtime friend, said that Stewart, though removed from politics while on the bench, remained a "political junkie" and was able to beat even veteran political observers in naming all the presidential and vice presidential nominees during their lifetimes.
Cutler also recalled southern senators' opposition to Stewart's nomination by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the high court in 1959 because Stewart had written a forceful opinion on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals desegregating schools in an Ohio town. Stewart also had voted to free a black prisoner jailed after a hasty nighttime trial without a lawyer, saying, "Swift justice demands more than just swiftness."
While other speakers yesterday celebrated Stewart's personal qualities, Chief Justice Warren Burger, turning to a more somber theme, spoke of Stewart's legal views, especially those on the First Amendment, criminal law and the death penalty.
Burger said Stewart, though he might have disapproved of capital punishment, felt bound as a judge "to apply the Constitution . . . , which . . . by clearest implication" allows the death penalty. "Potter contributed greatly in charting a new course with respect to this sensitive, difficult and painful subject," Burger said.
Stewart's conservative views on criminal cases "will undoubtedly be influential in the future," Burger said. "We will sorely miss him and miss his friendship and his wise counsel in the years ahead."
Stewart, a naval officer during World War II, was buried on a knoll in Arlington National Cemetery about 100 yards below President John F. Kennedy's gravesite, a few yards from the graves of former justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and William O. Douglas, and adjacent to the grave of Marjorie Brennan, the first wife of Justice William J. Brennan Jr.