WASHINGTON — Former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart was eulogized by Vice President George Bush, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and others Wednesday in funeral services marked with fond and light-hearted remembrances of the late jurist.
Stewart died Saturday at age 70 from complications of a stroke. He served 23 years on the court before his retirement in 1981.
More than 700 people, including the nine members of the court, attended services at the ornate Washington Cathedral.
Stewart, a naval officer during World War II, was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, on a knoll near the graves of Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and William O. Douglas.
A judicial moderate, Stewart received warm praise for his respect for legal tradition, even temperament and ability to cut through to the heart of the issue. Recollections of his uncanny skill with the written word--which made him one of the most quoted justices on the court--and his engaging sense of humor drew appreciative smiles from the audience.
Bush, a longtime personal friend, said that while Stewart had devoted a lifetime to public service, he had remained personally dedicated to his family--a notable achievement in a city where "one can find himself a public hero, but a private failure."
Way With Words
Washington attorney Lloyd N. Cutler told how Stewart, while serving as a judge on the federal court of appeals in the 1950s, once had voted to overturn the conviction of a black prisoner who had been hastily tried at night without a lawyer. Stewart had concluded: "Swift justice demands more than just swiftness."
Zeph Stewart, the late justice's 64-year-old brother, described their youth together as being filled with practical jokes. His brother, he said, once inveigled him into slipping a dead frog into the family salad bowl.
Bush also underscored Stewart's lack of stuffiness, recalling that in prep school, Stewart had been named "class wit," receiving 43 votes. "The next closest wit got four votes," he said.
Devoted Sports Fan
The vice president gently chided his late friend's "forceful" but "erratic" driving habits and acknowledged his devotion as a baseball fan to the Cincinnati Reds, who he felt "somehow were invincible."
Burger, focusing on Stewart's legal ability and views, praised his thorough preparation for oral arguments before the court and for the closed conferences in which the justices vote on cases.
The chief justice said that capital punishment "greatly disturbed" Stewart and that had he been a legislator, "he might not have supported" it. But Stewart, who in 1976 joined the court in upholding the death penalty, "as a judge . . . felt bound to enforce and apply the Constitution of the United States, which, if not expressly, by the clearest implication authorizes legislative bodies to prescribe capital punishment," Burger said.