Author: William H. Rehnquist

A native of Shorewood, Wisconsin, lawyer, and US Supreme Court justice William H. Rehnquist (1924–2005) served as Chief Justice of the nation’s highest court from 1986 to 2005. After high school, Rehnquist initially attended Kenyon College, but left to enlist in the Army Air Corps during World War II. After three years of service, Rehnquist finished his college education at Stanford University, earning a degree in political science. Immediately after college, Rehnquist continued his studies at Harvard, earning a master’s degree in government, followed by a law degree from Stanford in 1952. Rehnquist then travelled to Washington, earning a prestigious clerkship at the US Supreme Court under Associate Justice Robert Jackson from 1952–53. Following his stint as a clerk, Rehnquist married and moved to Arizona to work in the private sector. During his time in Arizona, Rehnquist became active with the Republican Party and eventually received an appointment to the US Department of Justice. When a vacancy opened on the Supreme Court in 1971, President Richard Nixon appointed Rehnquist as a Justice and he began his term the next year. Generally considered a conservative, Rehnquist was later elevated by President Ronald Reagan to the position of chief justice in 1986. During his time on the court, he also wrote books, including All the Laws but One: Civil Liberties in Wartime (1998) andGrand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson (1992). In 1998, Rehnquist presided over the historic trial of President Bill Clinton in the US Senate. He remained on the court until his death in 2005. 

Dissent from Texas v. Johnson

William H. Rehnquist

This selection consists of two opinions (both excerpted here) from the famous US Supreme Court flag-burning case of 1989, in which a split court (5–4) held that burning an American flag as political protest is a form of symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment.