WASHINGTON – He was nominated by Republican President Gerald Ford and retired under Democratic President Barack Obama, who was a teenager when John Paul Stevens began his 35 years of service on the Supreme Court.
In between, Stevens – who died Tuesday at 99 after suffering a stroke – had a major impact on most areas of American life, even as he evolved from a self-described conservative to become the leader of the court's liberal wing.
Stevens voted to reinstate the death penalty in 1976, a decision he came to rue as he authored opinions decades later limiting its use. He voted against minority set-asides in college admissions in 1978 but upheld a similar policy a quarter century later.
Through it all, Stevens maintained the support of Ford and won the confidence of Obama, even while tormenting some of the presidents who came in between.