WASHINGTON — The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a native of Trenton, will join singer Elvis Presley and former New York Yankees star Babe Ruth as recipients of the nation’s highest honor.
The three men were among seven people named Saturday by President Donald Trump as recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The awards will be presented on Friday.
Scalia, who passed away in 2016, was cited by Trump during the campaign as a model for future Supreme Court nominees. He was a key figure in the court’s five-member activist conservative bloc.
The White House called Scalia “a champion of the Constitution, insisting that the role of Federal judges is to uphold the original meaning of the Constitution — never to impose their own beliefs on the country.”
He was part of the five-member bloc of Republican-appointed justices that found for the first time that the Second Amendment conveyed an individual right to bear arms, overturned a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that Scalia called “a perpetuation of racial entitlement,” and rejected decades of precedent and legislation in relaxing rules on political spending in the Citizens United case.
After Senate Republicans rejected legislative norms and refused to hold a hearing on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to succeed Scalia, the GOP unilaterally changed Senate rules to allow Trump to fill the vacancy with Judge Neil Gorsuch.
Ruth, the leader of the early Yankee dynasties, was one of three hall of fame athletes on Trump’s list. The others were former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach and former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page, who went on to a long career as a judge on the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Of Presley, the White House said he “defined American culture to billions of adoring fans around the world.”
Also receiving the award were Miriam Adelson, a doctor and philanthropist who with her husband, Sheldon Adelson, have given tens of millions of dollars to support Trump and other Republicans; and retiring U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who has spent more than four decades on Capitol Hill and has been a key Trump ally.
Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.