Timeline: John Paul Stevens, The 'Justice In The Bow Tie'


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  • April 20, 1920 Born John Paul Stevens in Chicago, Ill., the youngest of four sons to a successful hotel owner.
  • 1941 Graduates Phi Beta Kappa from University of Chicago with a bachelor's degree in English literature.
  • June 7, 1942 Marries Elizabeth Jane Sheeren; they have have four children (John Joseph, Kathryn Stevens Jedlicka, Elizabeth Jane and Susan Roberta) before they divorce in 1979.
  • 1942 Begins three years of service in the U.S. Naval Reserve, where he received a Bronze Star for work as a code breaker.
  • 1947 Studies for his law degreee at Northwestern University, becoming editor-in-chief of the school's law review and graduating magna cum laude. Clerks one term for Supreme Court Associate Justice Wiley B. Rutledge.
  • 1949 Is admitted into the Illinois Bar Association and joins the law firm of Poppenhusen, Johnston, Thompson and Raymond as an associate until 1952.
  • 1950 Lectures on antitrust law at Northwestern University School of Law, where he teaches until 1954.
  • 1951 Becomes associate counsel on study of monopoly power for the U.S. House judiciary committee.
  • 1952 Serves as a partner at law firm Rothschild, Stevens, Barry and Myers, where he works for 18 years, until 1970.
  • 1953 Becomes a member of the Attorney General's National Committee to Study Antitrust Laws, where he served through 1955.
  • 1955 Teaches at University of Chicago Law School, where he worked until 1958.
  • Oct. 14, 1970 Confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, nominated by President Richard Nixon.
  • 1974 Undergoes open heart surgery. Renews his private pilot's license and continues as an avid tennis player.
  • Dec. 19, 1975 After his nomination by Gerald Ford and Senate confirmation, Stevens takes the oath of office and becomes an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Stevens becomes known to court watchers as "the justice in the bow tie."
  • 1979 Divorced from Elizabeth Jane Sheeren, his wife of 37 years. Marries Maryland Mulholland Simon.
  • 1982 Receives radiation treatment for prostate cancer but remains on the job with a prognosis for a full recovery.
  • May 6, 1990 Financial statements indicate Stevens is the Supreme Court's second millionaire, joining Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
  • Dec. 12, 2000 Stevens dissents in the Bush v. Gore decision, a 5-to-4 Supreme Court ruling that effectively ends the presidential election for George W. Bush. Stevens writes: "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the law."
  • Oct. 21, 2002 Stevens and three other more liberal justices -- Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter -- harshly criticizes the court's conservative majority for refusing to consider if executing juvenile killers is unconstitutional, writing: "The practice of executing such offenders is a relic of the past and is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency in a civilized society. We should put an end to this shameful practice."
  • May 9, 2003 Stevens recuses himself from participating in a case involving Vietnam war veterans' exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide linked to cancer and other diseases. Stevens' only son, John Joseph, was a Vietnam veteran who apparently suffered from cancer before his death in 1996 at age 47.
  • Apr. 16, 2008 Stevens, a key vote in upholding the legality of the death penalty 30 years earlier, announces that he believes capital punishment is unconstitutional in a concurring opinion rejecting a challenge to lethal injections in Kentucky. "I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty represents 'the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes. A penalty with such negligible returns to the state (is) patently excessive and cruel and unusual punishment violative of the Eighth Amendment.'"
  • Jan. 21, 2010 A 5-4 high court ruling vastly increases the power of corporations and unions to influence the political process by freeing them to spend their millions directly to sway elections. Stevens bitterly dissents, writing "The court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation."
  • Apr. 9, 2010 Stevens announces that he will retire at the end of the term.



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