Growing Up Scalia

4 minute read

Wearing blue jeans to school was considered off-limits for the nine children of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife Maureen.

The household rule, which the children eventually eased, was one of the many higher standards the strict conservative father held for his kids, author Joan Biskupic writes in her 2010 biography, American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“We had our own culture,” Scalia said. “The first thing you’ve got to teach your kids is what my parents used to tell me all the time: ‘You’re not everybody else. We have our own standards and they aren’t the standards of the world in all respects, and the sooner you learn that the better.’”

The 79-year-old jurist, who died of natural causes over the weekend at a Texas resort ranch, took pride in raising his five sons and four daughters with the same traditional upbringing and devout Catholicism that reared him.

His children attended local public school during the rise of Woodstock, women’s liberation and drug experimentation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Biskupic explains. “They were being raised in a culture that wasn’t supportive of our values, that was certainly true,” Scalia told the author. “But we were helped by the fact that we were such a large family.”

Scalia’s eldest son, Eugene Scalia, said it “took a long time” for his parents to finally cave and allow them to wear jeans to school. “We’d say, ‘Everybody’s wearing blue jeans.’ And they’d say, ‘Why would you want to be like everybody else?’” he recalled.

The children — who later became lawyers, a priest, a poet, an Army major and parents themselves — also regularly attended Sunday Mass while growing up. It was one of Scalia’s “greatest sources of pride,” Biskupic writes. Each week, Scalia drove his family an hour out of the way from suburban McLean, Va., to downtown Washington, D.C., where traditional services were still offered at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, according to the biography.

It was quality-bonding time between the children and Scalia, who told 60 Minutes in 2008 that he worked a lot while the children were young and never went to any of their soccer games or piano recitals. Having his father attend his own events as a child was something Scalia wasn’t used to himself. “You know, my parents never did it for me,” he told 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl. “And I didn’t take it personally. ‘Oh Daddy, come to my softball game.’ No, I mean, it’s my softball game. He has his work. I got my softball game.’” Scalia’s Ivy League-educated wife told Stahl that she juggled most of the events, making sure to show up for a little bit at a time for each of them.

Scalia is survived by Maureen, his wife of over 50 years, and his middle-aged children — Ann, Eugene, John, Catherine, Mary, Paul, Christopher, Matthew and Margaret. They went on to make their parents proud and gave them more than 30 grandchildren, according to Biskupic.

Paul became a parish priest in Virginia, and Matthew made a successful career in the Army, the biography writes. Eugene and John became lawyers based in Washington, D.C., while Christopher made a name for himself as a writer. Catherine, Ann, Margaret and Mary each gave birth to a handful of children.

Scalia married Maureen in 1960. He told Biskupic that she was “the product of the best decision I ever made.” “The mother of the nine children you see, the woman responsible for raising them with very little assistance from me,” he said. “And there’s not a dullard in the bunch!”

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