The death on March 4 of Mary Ann "Andy" Stewart, the widow of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, was mourned within the court community even though it has been more than 27 years since her husband died.
Before she moved away from Washington in 2008, Mrs. Stewart continued to participate in the informal club of justices’ spouses who get together at the court from time to time. She died of pneumonia in Brattleboro, Vt., at age 93.
"All of us at the Court were saddened to learn of Andy Stewart’s passing," Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said in a statement to The National Law Journal. "She had remained an active member of the Court family after the loss of her husband, and also pursued a fulfilling career of her own, volunteering with a wide variety of organizations focused on making our world a better place. The entire Court will miss her gracious, lively, and welcoming presence."
During her husband’s tenure on the court from 1958 to 1981, Mrs. Stewart was "both a dynamo and a mother hen" for the justice’s law clerks, according to Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, who clerked for Stewart in the 1967 term. "She was a great friend to all the justice’s clerks."
Tribe recalled that Mrs. Stewart once "ran up to me in the courtroom right after one of my Supreme Court arguments to give me a hug and some supportive comments." But Chief Justice Rehnquist apparently disapproved, Tribe said, because he was "staring down at her with the withering remark, ‘Take it outside, Andy!’ He said it loud and clear."
She also served on several charitable boards and helped create the annual Justice Potter Stewart Award given by the Council for Court Excellence to recognize those who have improved the administration of courts and justice in Washington.
"Mrs. Stewart was an active and generous member of the board of the Council for Court Excellence from its founding in 1982 until she moved to Vermont in 2008," said the council’s executive director, June Kress, in a statement. "The Council is indebted to Mrs. Stewart for permission to create the award and for her longstanding and spirited service to the organization."
Potter and Andy Stewart married in 1943, and became close friends, through Yale connections, with the family of Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush, the father of President George H.W. Bush. Justice Stewart’s papers, made public in 2010, include letters to and from the Bush family.
Prescott Bush left the Senate in 1963, and in 1965 he wrote to Stewart from Connecticut, "Dotty and I miss seeing you and Andy for we loved our friendship with you in Washington."
When Prescott Bush died in 1972, his widow wrote to Stewart, "Your and Andy’s friendship has meant so much to George and Barbara, as it did to Pres and me."
As the letter indicated, the Stewarts became close friends of George H.W. and Barbara Bush as well. Barbara Bush described Andy Stewart as her best friend.
Stewart swore Bush in as vice president, but did not live to see him as president. After Stewart announced his retirement in 1981—making way for the nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor—Vice President Bush wrote the justice, "We are thinking of you and your feelings as you leave active service on this court. Bar and I wish we were in town. We feel so close to you and Andy. The future of course will be full and exciting—and we hope it includes more Bush-Stewart visits, burgers, action."
Tony Mauro can be contacted at email@example.com.