Pioneering Arizonan, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor dies at 93 | Phoenix New Times
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Pioneering Arizonan, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor dies at 93

The first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court and Arizona's first female Senate Majority Leader died on Friday in Phoenix.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2012. She had a long history in Arizona before being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2012. She had a long history in Arizona before being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981. T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty
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Sandra Day O’Connor — the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court and a trailblazing Arizona jurist and state lawmaker — died on Friday in Phoenix, the court announced.

O’Connor, 93, died of complications related to advanced dementia and a respiratory illness, according to the high court.

“A daughter of the American Southwest, Sandra Day O’Connor blazed an historic trail as our Nation’s first female Justice,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in a prepared statement.

“She met that challenge with undaunted determination, indisputable ability, and engaging candor. We at the Supreme Court mourn the loss of a beloved colleague, a fiercely independent defender of the rule of law, and an eloquent advocate for civics education. And we celebrate her enduring legacy as a true public servant and patriot,” Roberts added.

O’Connor landed in Arizona in 1958, where she practiced law in Maryvale for two years. She served as assistant attorney general of Arizona from 1965 to 1969 before being appointed to the state Senate in 1969. She was later elected twice and became the state’s first female majority leader in 1973.

Two years later, in 1975, O’Connor was elected as a judge on the Maricopa County Superior Court after being appointed to the seat in 1974. She served until 1979, when she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Former President Ronald Reagan appointed O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 19, 1981. After serving more than 24 years on the court, she retired in 2006. Later that year, ASU College of Law was renamed the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

O’Connor was born in El Paso, Texas, on March 26, 1930. She received a bachelor's degree in economics in 1950 and a law degree in 1952, both from Stanford University. Shortly afterward, she married John Jay O’Connor III in 1952. From 1952 to 1953, she served as deputy county attorney of San Mateo County, California, and then as a civilian attorney for Quartermaster Market Center in Frankfurt, Germany, from 1954 to 1957.

O’Connor wrote five books: “Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest” in 2002, “The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice” in 2003, “Chico” in 2005, “Finding Susie” in 2009 and “Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court” in 2013.

After she retired from the Supreme Court, O’Connor founded and led the education platform iCivics, according to the court.

O’Connor is survived by her three sons, Scott O’Connor, Brian O’Connor and Jay O’Connor; six grandchildren, Courtney, Adam, Keely, Weston, Dylan and Luke; and her beloved brother and co-author, Alan Day Sr. Her husband, John O'Connor, preceded her in death in 2009.

The court said funeral plans were not yet available.
click to enlarge Sandra Day O'Connor in 1981
Sandra Day O'Connor, at the time a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals, testified at her U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 1981.
Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty

Elected officials offer tributes to Sandra Day O’Connor

After her death was announced on Friday, current and former elected officials from across Arizona offered condolences. The state's delegation in the U.S. House took part in a moment of silence on the House floor.

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