Late justice known for putting pen to paper

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a legal trailblazer and a fierce advocate for advancing the rights of women and minorities, but in one area of life, at least, she was very much a traditionalist: letter writing.

The Supreme Court associate justice, who died Sept. 18 and will be buried this week, left behind countless admirers who received handwritten cards and letters from her throughout her career.

Last year, Miriam Benitez-Nixon received a thank-you note from Ginsburg after sending her a pearl collar that had been donated to the Dunedin, FL, thrift shop where Benitez-Nixon volunteers.

Ginsburg, whose distinctive collars were one of her trademarks, was recovering from surgery to remove cancerous nodules when she received the gift.

“The collar you sent is exquisite and will be among my favorites. I will wear it during the first sitting I return to the court,” Ginsburg wrote.

Benitez-Nixon and her fellow volunteers were surprised that the justice took the time to write.

“We’re all thrilled she received it [and] that she loved it,” Benitez-Nixon told the Washington Examiner newspaper.

Similar stories abound: A Columbia, MD, girl who dressed as Ginsburg for her school’s Superhero Day received a handwritten note from the justice. A mom who wrote to Ginsburg asking if her daughter could meet the justice during a class trip to Washington received a note saying she’d be delighted to grant the request. Professional soccer player Becky Sauerbrunn, who sent Ginsburg a jersey bearing the justice’s name, received a thank-you note and a promise that Ginsburg would wear it during an upcoming workout.

Paul Schiff Berman, a George Washington University law professor who clerked for Ginsburg, told the Examiner she was “meticulous” about responding to correspondence and would “think about and labor over every word she writes.”

Michael Egel, general and artistic director of the Des Moines Metro Opera in Iowa, exchanged nine letters with Ginsburg, a well-known opera aficionado, beginning in 2015.

Her final letter to him, dated Aug. 27, closed with well-wishes for the opera and all its supporters.

“It always felt special,” Egel told KCCI, the local CBS station, last week. “It feels even more special and touching now.”


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