Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice, is still alive at the age of 90. O’Connor was diagnosed with dementia following her retirement in 2006.
O’Connor became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court after her nomination by Ronald Reagan in 1981. Her husband, John Jay O’Connor, died in 2009 following a battle with dementia. O’Connor was a graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Law School.
O’Connor’s Son Said in 2018 That the Former Justice Was Living at a ‘Slower Pace’
In October 2018, Politico reported that O’Connor had been diagnosed with dementia and “possibly Alzheimer’s.” The diagnosis came “some time ago,” according to Politico. In a letter from O’Connor quoted in the story, the former justice said that she was retiring from public life due to her illness.
At the same time, one of O’Connor’s three sons, Jay O’Connor, told AZ Central that his mother’s overall health was good and that she was living life at a “slower pace.” Jay O’Connor described his mother’s condition as “particularly poignant” as his father suffered from the same condition. He said, “This is a point of reflection for her and her family. We are so proud of what she has done, in her life and her career.”
O’Connor Requires the Use of a Wheelchair & Lives in an Assisted Living Facility
O’Connor’s biographer Evan Thomas confirmed in a 2019 interview with CNN that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Thomas said O’Connor required the use of a wheelchair and that she lived in an assisted living facility. He said that O’Connor first began to notice her husband’s condition in the late 1990s and that after several incidents in public, she decided to retire due to his health. AZ Central reported in 2019 that O’Connor was still in “good health” when she retired at 75 in order to take care of her husband.
O’Connor Said She Disagreed With the Republican Decision Not to Grant a Hearing to President Obama’s Nominee to Replace Antonin Scalia in 2016
In February 2016, O’Connor gave what appears to be her most recent interview to Phoenix’s KSAZ. The interview came shortly after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. O’Connor said, “I don’t agree (with Republicans). We need somebody in there to do the job and just get on with it.” O’Connor added:
Well, you just have to pick the best person you can under these circumstances, as the appointing authority must do. And it’s an important position and one we care about as a nation, as a people. And I wish the president well as he makes choices and goes down that line — it’s hard.
O’Connor Battled Breast Cancer in 1988
In 1988, O’Connor underwent a mastectomy in order to treat breast cancer. O’Connor was 58 at the time and in the very early stages of breast cancer. In that same year, O’Connor also had her appendix removed. O’Connor spoke publicly about her cancer battle in 1994, saying:
There was constant media coverage. ‘How does she look? When is she going to step down and give the President another vacancy on the Court? She looks pale to me. I don’t give her six months.’ Well, I didn’t like that.
O’Connor said that her love of the law motivated her to return to health.
In September 2019, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey recognized Sandra Day O’Connor Day. Prior to her service on the U.S. Supreme Court, O’Connor served as both an Arizona assistant attorney general and a state senator.