Thank you for reading The Marble Palace Blog, which I hope will inform and surprise you about the Supreme Court of the United States. My name is Tony Mauro. I’ve covered the Supreme Court since 1979 and for American Lawyer Media since 2000. I semiretired in 2019, but I am still fascinated by the high court. I’ll welcome any tips or suggestions for topics to write about. You can reach me at [email protected].

Diego D’Ambrosio, the longtime barber who cut the hair of Supreme Court justices, judges, ambassadors, politicians, priests, journalists like me and anyone who came into his Dupont Circle salon for decades, died on Oct. 22.

Diego was a joyous Italian, a barber of civility, so to speak, who always welcomed his customers with a warm greeting. An array of photos of familiar Washington faces, autographed for Diego, covered the walls of his small shop. Well into his 80s, D’Ambrosio kept on working for his circle of friends. He was one of those lesser-known people who stitch Washington together, a task that is nearly impossible these days. His son Fabrizio told the City Paper that his father, 87, was “the unofficial barber of the Supreme Court.”

A sign of D’Ambrosio’s importance in D.C. came Tuesday when I asked Justice Samuel Alito Jr. for a comment about his passing. I knew Alito often frequented Diego’s salon. Alito responded swiftly:

“I was a regular customer of Diego’s for the past 15 years, and I always looked forward to seeing him. He was a cheerful, friendly, kind, and generous man and a true Washington institution. Switching without a pause from English to Italian to Spanish, he obviously loved his work, enjoyed the friendship of customers from all walks of life, and worked tirelessly. Even after he fell and injured his hip, he continued to work by using a walker—and still had a big smile on his face. With the death of his beloved wife, the last few years were plainly very difficult for him. Like many, many others, I will miss him. May he rest in peace.”

One of my recollections of D’Ambrosio came from attending the funeral of then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who died in 2005. Amid legal and political giants in attendance, D’Ambrosio sat alone and forlorn. I knew he had cut Rehnquist’s hair for many years, but did not know they had a close friendship.

After the funeral, I visited Diego’s salon and asked him to recall his times with Rehnquist. This is what D’Ambrosio said:

“I began cutting Justice Rehnquist’s hair 25 years ago, because I cut Warren Burger’s before that. At first, Rehnquist came by Metro. He would come every two weeks or three weeks for a haircut and greet me in Italian: ‘Buon giorno, Diego. Come stai?’

“He was great as a customer and as a friend. He would talk to everybody in the shop. Very friendly to everyone. He would drink espresso with us. I’m not a lawyer, but sometimes he would ask me for advice.

“He would say, ‘I’m in your chair now, Diego, but if you were in my chair, what would you do?’

“One time he invited me to watch a case. Before it started, we talked politics for 45 minutes. I watched the arguments, and afterward he asked me what I thought. I told him, ‘Those three people are going to jail.’ They did! He sent me a copy of the decision that he signed (Maryland v. Pringle).

“Last year he came in and his voice was, you know, rough. He said he had a cold. I told his driver he should see a doctor. He was in the hospital right after that. While he was sick, I went to his house a few times to cut his hair, and then I cut his hair at the court. You could see he was sick, but not his mind. And in June, when everyone was predicting he would resign, I knew different. You know why? Because I asked him if my son Marco could visit the court, and he said, ‘When we come back in October, Marco can come in.’”


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