By Jack Shafer
Friday, Sept. 9, 2005
As we usher the 16th chief justice of the United States to his celestial reward, let us remember him in full. He labored successfully to return power to the states, treated colleagues with warmth and respect, was said to be a gregarious boss, and, inspired by a judge's costume he saw in the performance of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, added four silly gold stripes to each sleeve of his judicial robe.
And for the nine years between 1972 and the end of 1981, William Rehnquist consumed great quantities of the potent sedative-hypnotic Placidyl. So great was Rehnquist's Placidyl habit, dependency, or addiction—depending on how you regard long-term drug use—that by the last quarter of 1981 he began slurring his speech in public, became tongue-tied while pronouncing long words, and sometimes had trouble finishing his thoughts.