Profile of the chief justice
From the "Wolf Blitzer Reports" staff
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- William H. Rehnquist was sworn in to the Supreme Court in 1972 by President Richard Nixon.
Fourteen years later, in 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Rehnquist chief justice, and the era of the Rehnquist court began.
As chief justice, Rehnquist swore in both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
He also presided over both the inauguration and the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
While the inaugurations and the impeachment put Rehnquist in the public spotlight, it's his role in Supreme Court decisions that will provide his legacy.
A strong conservative who once campaigned for Barry Goldwater, Rehnquist's tenure coincided with a gradual but steady move away from the more liberal court of the 1960's, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Scholars say Rehnquist played a major role in the drive to reduce federal power and increase states' rights. He's also been a supporter of the death penalty and of public funding for religious educational institutions.
In 1973, Rehnquist opposed the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
Rehnquist authored a 1995 decision that blocked Congress from banning guns near schools.
Four years ago, he was one of five justices who stopped the final recount of Florida election ballots, ending all challenges to the presidential election of George W. Bush.
An 80-year-old widower, Rehnquist is the second-oldest man ever to preside over the Supreme Court.
The oldest was Roger Taney, who remained chief justice until his death at the age of 87 in 1864.