Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal U.S. Supreme Court justice, has died at 87. The cause of death was complications of pancreatic cancer, according to a statement from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. In his statement, Roberts referred to Ginsburg as a “jurist of historic nature” and a “cherished colleague.”
Ginsburg’s husband, Martin Ginsburg, died in 2010. The couple was married in 1954. They had two children together, Jane and James. Ginsburg was a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia University.
Ginsburg was the leader of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing. If President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Ginsburg receives and wins a Senate vote, it will be the third Supreme Court justice added to the bench during his presidency. He has also nominated both Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the court during his first term in office.
Republicans have promised to confirm an appointee even if it comes in the final days of Trump’s presidency. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said following Ginsburg’s death, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Ginsburg, a native of Brooklyn, New York, was nominated by President Bill Clinton in June 1993 and began her time on the court in August 1993. Ginsburg was first treated for pancreatic cancer in February 2009 when she was 75 years old. In 2018, Ginsburg had two malignant nodules removed from her left lung. In 1999, she was treated for colon cancer.
According to NPR, Ginsburg said in a statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera shortly before her death, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Ginsburg will be buried in a private ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery.
1. Ginsburg Underwent a Medical Procedure in July 2020
A statement from the U.S. Supreme Court press office on July 29 said that Ginsburg underwent a “minimally invasive non-surgical procedure” at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The procedure took place in order to revise a bile duct stent that was placed by doctors at the same hospital in August 2019. The press release ended by saying the justice was “resting comfortably” and expected to be released from the hospital at the end of that week.
2. In January 2020, Ginsburg Said She Was Free of Pancreatic Cancer
In November 2019, Ginsburg sat out Supreme Court arguments due to a stomach illness.
The Washington Post’s Morgan Jenkins wrote about the media coverage of Ginsburg’s health in January 2019:
The pressure on Ginsburg to stay physically and mentally fit for the maintenance of our democracy illustrates our desperation in this new political landscape: It’s easier to focus on keeping one woman alive than to tackle our broader national dysfunction and division.
Jenkins went on to describe the prospect of Trump picking Ginsburg’s successor as a “terrifying thought.”
3. Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky Predicted in 2009 That Ginsburg Had 9 Months to Live Following Her First Pancreatic Cancer Bout
In March 2010, Ginsburg publicly rebuked Kentucky Republican Senator Jim Bunning after he told a room of donors that the justice would have nine months to live. Ginsburg was quoted by ABC News as saying, “I am pleased to report that, contrary to Sen. Bunning’s prediction, I am alive and in good health.”
Bunning told a crowd that a conservative judge would be needed in the Supreme Court “very shortly” because of Ginsburg’s health. Bunning said, “Bad cancer. The kind you don’t get better from.” Bunning went on, “Even though she was operated on, usually nine months is the longest that anybody would live after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.” Bunning later apologized for his comments.
Ginsburg told NPR’s Nina Totenberg in 2019:
There was a senator, I think it was after my pancreatic cancer, who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months. That senator, whose name I have forgotten, is now himself dead, and I am very much alive.
Bunning died in May 2017 at the age of 85. He suffered a stroke eight months earlier.
4. In 2018, Ginsburg’s Personal Trainer Referred to Her as a ‘Cyborg’
Ginsburg told The New York Times in 2018 that Bryant Johnson had been her “physical fitness guardian since 1999.” The same year, Johnson told People magazine that Ginsburg trained with him twice a week for an hour. Johnson said that at times he had to “protect her from herself” in regard to the amount of training she wanted to do. The pair’s workout sessions spawned a book, The RBG Workout.
The director of the documentary RBG, Betsy West, told People that Johnson referred to Ginsburg as a “cyborg.” West added, “Justice Ginsburg is one tough cookie. She has overcome challenges that would have felled many lesser people.”
The New York Times reported in September 1999 that Ginsburg first began feeling unwell in what turned out to be her first battle with cancer while she was teaching at a Tulane Law School program on the Greek island of Crete.
5. Ginsburg’s Mother, Celia Bader, Succumbed to Cervical Cancer the Night Before Her Daughter’s High School Graduation
Ginsburg’s mother, Celia Bader, died from cervical cancer in 1948. Her death came the night before Ginsburg was set to graduate from James Madison High School in Brooklyn, New York. A Forward feature on Ginsburg said that Celia Bader was a native of Austria and her father, Nathan, was from Russia. Ginsburg’s older sister, Ruth, died after suffering from meningitis at the age of 6. Despite her mother’s death, Ginsburg left Brooklyn to attend Cornell University in the fall.
A Hadassah Magazine feature on Ginsburg said that her mother had battled cervical cancer “for years” prior to her death. At the time of her nomination to the Supreme Court, Ginsburg told the media that her mother was “the bravest and strongest person I have known.”