WASHINGTON — After battling cancer for the better part of the past year, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist (search) died late Saturday evening, bringing to an end his lengthy time on the bench and opening another vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Rehnquist, 80, was surrounded by his three children when he died at his home in suburban Arlington.
"The Chief Justice battled thyroid cancer since being diagnosed last October and continued to perform his duties on the court until a precipitous decline in his health the last couple of days," said court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg.
Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court (search) as an associate justice in 1971 by President Nixon and took his seat on Jan. 7, 1972. He was elevated to chief justice by President Reagan in 1986.
His death ends a career during which Rehnquist oversaw the court's conservative shift, presided over an impeachment trial and helped decide a presidential election.