A court spokeswoman says Rehnquist, who was 80, was surrounded by his three children. In a statement, the spokeswoman says "the Chief Justice battled thyroid cancer since being diagnosed last October and continued to perform his duties on the court until a precipitous decline in his health the last couple of days." Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1971 by President Nixon. He was elevated to chief justice by President Reagan in 1986. His death ends a remarkable 33-year Supreme Court career. During it, Rehnquist oversaw the court's conservative shift, presided over the impeachment trial of President Clinton and helped decide the presidential election that put President Bush into office.
The death gives Bush his second court opening within four months.