Robert Bork, Supreme Court Nominee, Dies At 85

Robert Bork, Supreme Court nominee and conservative icon, has died at the age of 85.

For the right, Robert Bork and his perspective heralded a reinvention of Republican politics and helped shape the modern GOP. According to the Washington Post in an obituary, Robert Bork the jurist and Robert Bork the man were nearly different people, though not contradictorily so.

The paper explains:

“In his writings and in debates on legal doctrine, the burly, bearded, chain-smoking ex-Marine was sharply confrontational. But friends and enemies alike found him a man of great charm, compassion and intellect, with a wit so sharp a close friend once called it dangerous.”

The Post cites an older TIME piece in which Bork was recalled to have responded to a colleagues vow a decision would occur over his dead body by saying, “to some of us, that sounded like the scenic route.”

The paper further quotes political opponent Teddy Kennedy, who in contesting Bork’s nomination also described an America that many might believe has already come to pass without Bork’s appointment to the bench — “a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is — and is often the only — protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.”

TIME itself lauds Bork in a piece describing the conservative icon as “brilliant, blunt, and piercingly witty,” and note his role in the coining of a term in the political lexicon:

“The process [of vetting Bork] begat a verb, ‘to bork,’ meaning vilification of a nominee on ideological grounds. In later years, some accused Bork of borking Clinton nominees with nearly the zeal that some liberal commentators had pursued him.”

Robert Bork, who is survived by his second wife and predeceased by his first, died of complications of heart ailments.