William Rehnquist was a justice of the Supreme Court who eventually became Chief Justice. He was appointed during the Nixon administration.
But he was not Nixon’s first choice. Richard Poff was Nixon’s first choice.
Poff was a perfect fit for the court. He was brilliant, personable and had a great judicial temperament. He had a strong knowledge and understanding of constitutional law. He had worked for years at the highest level of the federal government.
He had no history of financial scandal and he had no secret mistresses. Nixon’s team vigorously vetted Poff and determined that he was of the very highest caliber. Without question, he was their man.
Yet, privately, Poff agonized. He had a 12 year old son, who was adopted. The son did not know he was adopted. Poff wished to tell him when the child was older.
Poff was certain that in the confirmation process, newspaper reporters would dig up the adoption issue. Then, certainly, his son would find out.
Poff desperately wanted to be appointed to the court, but he wanted to protect the son that he loved even more.
So Poff took himself out of consideration. He only told one person why, and swore him to secrecy. The Nixon people were stunned.
But Poff was already in the danger zone. Jack Anderson, a legendary Washington D.C investigative reporter, found out about Poff’s adopted son. And he was going to write a column about him.
Poff was told about this and begged Anderson to not print the story. But Anderson ignored his request, and wrote the column..
As result, Poff saw no choice but to tell his son about the adoption. So he did.
I don’t think you can find many cases in upper level Washington circles where one’s career does not come before family.
But that wasn’t the case here. This man had the opportunity to attain the highest level of achievement in his profession.
And he passed it up. For the love of his son.
And for that we should realize how very special he was.