U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13 on a ranch near Marfa, Texas. He was 79 years old. The cause of death was not immediately known. As the first Italian American on the court, he served 29 years, after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. He was a devout Roman Catholic, and his son, Paul, is a Catholic priest.
Early reports are that Scalia died in his sleep the night of Feb. 12 or the early morning of Feb. 13, after a day spent hunting quail at Cibolo Creek Ranch, 33 miles south of Marfa, Texas.
He was an outspoken opponent of abortion, affirmative action and what he termed the "so-called homosexual agenda."
In a 2013 interview with Jennifer Senior for New York magazine, Scalia was asked if his beliefs extended to the Devil, Scalia stated, "Of course! Yeah, he's a real person. Hey, c'mon, that's standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that." When asked if he had seen recent evidence of the Devil, Scalia replied, "You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He's making pigs run off cliffs, he's possessing people and whatnot. What he's doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He's much more successful that way."
In another 2013 interview, Scalia stated that "for capitalism to work, in order for it to produce a good and stable society, traditional Christian virtues are essential."
Scalia was "the intellectual cornerstone of the court's modern conservative wing, whose elegant and acidic opinions inspired a movement of legal thinkers and ignited liberal critics," according to The Washington Post.
In the first official notice of Justice Scalia's death, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said: "Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot, and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. His fierce loyalty to the Constitution set an unmatched example, not just for judges and lawyers, but for all Americans. We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the Rule of Law."
In a statement Saturday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts said: "On behalf of the Court and retired Justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away. He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his family."
Scalia was the most prominent advocate of constitutional interpretation called "originalism," the idea that judges should look to the meaning of the words of the Constitution at the time they were written, according to the Post.
Scalia was born in Trenton, New Jersey, and attended public grade school and Catholic high school in New York City, where his family had moved. He attended Georgetown University as an undergraduate and obtained his law degree from Harvard Law School. After spending six years in a Cleveland law firm, he became a law school professor at the University of Virginia.