Sandra Day O'Connor, Retired Supreme Court Judge, Dead At 93

Sandra Day O'Connor, a renowned lawyer best known for making history as the first woman to serve as a justice at the United States Supreme Court, has died at the age 93. "Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sandra O'Connor died this morning in Phoenix, Arizona, of complications related to advanced dementia, probably Alzheimer's and a respiratory illness," the Supreme Court announced in a statement dated December 1.

Back in 2018, O'Connor shared a public letter, revealing that she had been diagnosed with early stages of dementia. In the letter, the retired Supreme Court judge noted she would be stepping away from the limelight with adequate support and love from friends and family. "While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings of my life," she added.

According to the Supreme Court's statement, O'Connor is survived by her three sons, Scott, Brian, and Jay O'Connor, as well as six grandchildren. Her husband, John O'Connor, whom she married in December 1952, died of complications of Alzheimer's in 2009, per Washington Post.

In the wake of O'Connor's death, former colleagues have been paying tribute to the late lawyer. In his statement, Chief Justice John Roberts described O'Connor as "a daughter of the American Southwest" while lauding her for the remarkable strides she made in the legal system. "We celebrate her enduring legacy as a true public servant and patriot," he added.

Sandra Day O'Connor's remarkable legal career

After graduating from Stanford Law School in 1952, Sandra Day O'Connor held low-paying legal jobs until 1965, when she started working as an assistant attorney general of Arizona. She held that role for four years before moving on to the state Senate, where she served as majority leader. Following her two-year stint as a state senator, O'Connor returned to law, this time going on to work in the court as a Maricopa County Superior Court judge, per People.

Following her history-making appointment as a Supreme Court Justice in 1981, O'Connor championed women's rights, proving time and time again that women deserved a place in the justice system just as much as men. Her advocacy proved effective, as more women, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Ketanji Brown Jackson, have since earned a spot at the Supreme Court. "It's thrilling, in a way, to be the first to do something, the first woman ever to serve on the court. But it's dreadful if you're the last. And if I didn't do the job well, that's what would happen," O'Connor once said (via NBC News).

After 25 years on the Supreme Court, O'Connor retired in 2006 to care for her husband, John O'Connor, who had only just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at the time.