WASHINGTON--Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who told President
Obama on Friday he will retire this summer, is a Chicago native with longtime ties to the city.
I asked Bill Barnhart, a Chicago journalist who is co-author with Gene Schlickman of the biography John Paul Stevens: An Independent Life, to be
published next month by Northern Illinois University Press, to provide highlights of Stevens' connections to the city for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Here they are:
1. Stevens' father and grandfather built what was the world¹s biggest hotel
in 1927, The Stevens, on South Michigan Avenue. It is now the Chicago
Hilton. There still are "S"crests above the main entrances to the hotel.
2. His great uncle was Charles A. Stevens, owner of the former landmark
Chas. A Stevens women¹s apparel shop on State Street.
3. When Stevens was a teenager, his father and grandfather were indicted on
charges involving embezzlement from the family business. His father, Ernest
J. Stevens, was convicted in 1933, but the conviction was reversed by the
Illinois Supreme Court.
4. Stevens, born in 1920, grew up on 58th Street in Hyde Park, went to the
University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and later the U. of C. One of his
college mentors was Norman Maclean, author of A River Runs Through It.
Stevens was chairman of the board of the Chicago Maroon student newspaper
as America geared up for World War II. His law degree is from Northwestern.
5. Stevens is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. He was at the 1932 World Series
game at Wrigley Field when Babe Ruth supposedly pointed to the bleachers
during an at-bat -- and then hit a home run.
6. When the Picasso statue was unveiled in Daley Plaza in 1967, Stevens
wrote a humorous letter to the Chicago Tribune speculating that the statue
depicted a GOP elephant and was erected by Mayor Richard J. Daley as a
triumphant trophy for the Democratic Party.
7. In 1970, Stevens' first major dissent as a judge of the Seventh Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals came in the case of Milwaukee priest Father James
Groppi, who was jailed for disrupting the Wisconsin legislature in a protest
over the treatment of poor people. Stevens¹ dissent, in which he argued
Groppi was denied his due process rights, was affirmed later, when the U.S.
Supreme Court reversed the 7th Circuit¹s majority opinion.
8. In the mid-1960s, Stevens represented baseball owner Charlie Finley, who
was an insurance executive with offices on Michigan Avenue. Stevens helped
Finley move the Athletics from Kansas City to Oakland.
9. Stevens is a champion bridge player.
10. Stevens¹ experience with Chicago politics, including heading an
investigation into misdeeds by two Illinois Supreme Court judges, shaped his
view of the law, especially his dislike of any sort of legal immunity for
politicians. He ruled against President Clinton, for example, in the
infamous Paula Jones sexual harassment case.