Former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist reportedly proposed marriage to fellow Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when the two were law students in the early 1950s.

Though it was well known that the two had previously dated while attending Stanford, it appears they underplayed it. After Rehnquist left California to take up a Supreme Court clerkship, O’Connor received a letter from him. Though she had broken off their relationship and begun dating her future husband, John O’Connor, Rehnquist sent her proposal in a letter.

“To be specific, Sandy, will you marry me this summer?” Rehnquist reportedly asked in the letter.

Of course, having gone on her 40th date in 40 days with John, she rejected the proposal of the man who would give President Ronald Reagan the suggestion to make her the first woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.


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The news comes in a new book called First by author Evan Thomas, who found the Rehnquist letters among O’connor’s correspondences, while researching.

It appears that neither told anyone of the proposal. Friends, colleagues and family were all left in the dark.

Jay O’Connor, son of the retired justice, told NPR it was an “amazing accident” that the two would serve together as judges.

“Not only did they have a wonderful working relationship for over 25 years on the court they had a wonderful friendship their entire life.” he said.

The two justices would even live next door to each other in Phoenix during their later years.


O’Connor was the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. She retired in 2006 after serving more than two decades. Earlier this month, she announced that she’s withdrawing from public life after being diagnosed with dementia.

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