Stevens to be 13th Supreme Court justice buried at Arlington
WASHINGTON (AP) — Arlington National Cemetery has long been planned as the final resting place of retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. His second wife Maryan died in 2015 and was buried at the cemetery. The gravestone they will share has stood at Arlington, inscribed with both their names, since then. Stevens’ birthdate — April 20, 1920 — was chiseled on the stone, a blank space left for the date of his death.
Soon, that date will be added: July 16, 2019. Stevens died Tuesday at age 99, a day after suffering a stroke.
Arlington, just over the Potomac River from Washington, may be best known as the resting place of more than 400,000 service members, veterans, and their families, but it also has been a frequent choice of justices in recent years. Most of the justices were eligible to be buried at Arlington because they met the cemetery’s military service requirement, but others were given special permission to be buried there.
Funeral plans have not yet been announced, but Stevens is expected to be the 13th Supreme Court justice to be buried at the cemetery. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump ordered flags flown at half-staff on the day he is buried. Flags at the high court were already flying at half-staff Wednesday and the doors to the courtroom were draped in black.
In choosing to be buried at Arlington, Stevens decided to be buried near former colleagues. During his nearly 35 years on the court, he served with six other justices buried there.
The justices buried at Arlington include four chief justices: William Howard Taft, who served on the court after his single term as president, Earl Warren, Warren Burger and William H. Rehnquist. Rehnquist was the last justice to be buried at the cemetery, in 2005. Martin Ginsburg, the husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was buried in the cemetery in 2010, near where Stevens will be interred. The justice has kept the framed, folded flag from her husband’s casket in her office at the court ever since.
Stevens’ plot is in the cemetery’s “Section 5,” just below the grave of President John F. Kennedy, with its iconic eternal flame. Standing near where Stevens will be buried, visitors can see the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument in the distance. The justices buried in the section are all fairly close together. Four of the men Stevens served with have adjoining plots, their headstones in a row: Harry Blackmun, Thurgood Marshall, Potter Stewart and William J. Brennan Jr. The four served together on the high court between 1970 and 1981. The man who was chief justice when Stevens joined the court in 1975, Burger, is buried one row in front of them, in the same row as Stevens’ gravestone.
Because the section is an older one, those buried there don’t have the standard, white markers of most in the cemetery. Instead, the stones are more personal. Blackmun, the author of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade abortion decision, has his stone inscribed: “Humility (asterisk) Integrity (asterisk) Compassion (asterisk) Courage.” Marshall, who argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case and became the court’s first black justice when he joined the bench in 1967, has his engraved “Civil Rights Advocate.” Stewart’s stone says: “A good lawyer who did his best.” And Brennan shares a tombstone with his first and second wives, the latter his longtime secretary.
Stevens’ stone has on one side the seal of the Supreme Court and the years he served, 1975 to 2010. It notes on the other that he was a lieutenant commander in the Navy. He joined the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor and was awarded the Bronze Star for his World War II service with a team that cracked Japanese codes.
Also buried in Section 5 are Rehnquist and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. William O. Douglas, the court’s longest-serving justice with 36 years on the bench, is also there. Stevens replaced Douglas on the court.
Elsewhere in the cemetery are the graves of four justices: Taft and Warren plus justices Hugo Black and Arthur Goldberg.
Stevens’ burial will mean there are now nine justices buried in Section 5, the same number as on the court.
Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at twitter.com/jessicagresko.