Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas remember Antonin Scalia

Story highlights

  • Tuesday's event, hosted by the Scalia family, was a celebration of memories told by many of those who knew him best
  • Fellow justices and family members spoke, sharing memories of the Justice who died last month
  • On Wednesday, the eight justices will take the bench again to hear a challenge to a Texas abortion law.

Washington (CNN)Nearly three weeks after his sudden death, Supreme Court justices, friends and family members gathered once again to honor Justice Antonin Scalia in a memorial program that was dominated by laughter and poignant memories.

In contrast to the somber laying in repose that occurred at the Supreme Court days after his death when former clerks kept vigil over the casket, and the formal Mass held at the Basilica of the National Shrine, Tuesday's event, hosted by the Scalia family, was a celebration of memories told by many of those who knew him best.
    After a welcome from his sons, including a prayer from Father Paul Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas took the stage. He spoke of their different upbringing and unlikely friendship.
    "For different reasons and from different origins, we were heading in the same direction, so we walked together and worked together," Thomas said.
    His voice cracking at times, he also told stories. At one point he remembered how proud Scalia was when he had written something he thought was particularly powerful. Thomas said Scalia would summon him to chambers for a "dramatic reading."
    Thomas and Scalia, who were ideological soulmates on several cases were sometimes alone in dissent.
    "There were many buck-each-other-up" visits Thomas allowed. "Too many to count," he added to laughter.
    Thomas told about how they sat next to each other on the bench and Scalia once complained about an opinion that had become horrible precedent.
    "Nino," Thomas recounted to laughter, "you wrote it."
    After Thomas, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke about the many memories she kept about the man who was her opposite in many cases before the court, but a true friend.
    "In my treasure trove of memories," she said she remembered when he gave her an advance copy of his dissent to her landmark case striking down the all-male admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute.
    "It was a zinger," she said. But she added that she was grateful to have the chance to read the dissent and adjust her majority opinion before its release to make it more powerful.
    She remembered when he brought her roses on her birthday and his phone call to her after the contentious Bush v. Gore case when they landed on opposite sides.
    "He didn't say 'get over it'" she said, instead he asked her why she was staying late. "Go home and take a hot bath," she said he told her.
    "I will miss the challenges and the laughter he provoked," she said.
    Judge Laurence H. Silberman, a long-time friend, revealed that Scalia once drove him on a speed defying car trip to see the Orioles play the Yankees. Silberman said the car trip and the fact that Scalia, a Yankee fan, was sitting in the Orioles section, created one of the most "frightening days of my life." At one point an Orioles fan tried to silence the Justice who was loudly supporting the Yankees. "If you don't shut up, I'm going to punch you in the nose," the fan said.
    Most poignant were comments from two of Scalia's four daughters.
    Catherine Courtney, who said she was at the "top half of" of the batting order was old enough to remember when the Scalias often moved around the country for different jobs before he was ultimately nominated to the bench. She said that family dinners were a priority and that her father was a stickler for pronunciation and grammar and favored the Grimm's fairy tales before bed time. He would also sometimes wave his arms before the grill and order the hamburgers to "be juicy."
    She said of all his decisions, the one that "stands alone" was the "landmark decision of 1960 to marry" his wife Maureen who was his perfect foil. They had a 5-4 split: five boys and four girls.
    "If it was help with math homework, you wouldn't go to him," Courtney added.
    Another daughter, Mary Clare Murray, made reference to her father's elaborate mass at the Basilica. She said the family initially thought they should agree to a "small private mass" that their father would most likely have preferred. But Murray told he mother, "since when do we care what Dad wants" and planning for the elegant mass for some 3,000 guests went forward.