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President Trump is going to announce his nomination for the Supreme Court later this week, and all the talk is about Amy Coney Barrett, currently a Notre Dame professor of law and a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. As it happens, Amy was a classmate of mine at Rhodes College, a small (1,400 students at the time) liberal-arts school in Memphis. I didn’t know her well, but she was a friend of other friends, and we were acquainted a bit through being in a club together.
I can tell you a few things about her, though. For one thing, she did not have a wild reputation, so I think that if she’s nominated, the Senate hearings will have to find something else to complain about. She was an English major and served on the Honor Council, a student body that enforced our honor code against lying and cheating (a great feature of academics at Rhodes that allowed us take-home tests in many classes). We were both in Mortar Board, an honor society. She wasn’t a political activist and was never a member of the College Republicans (I was, and we had a much larger membership than the College Democrats).
Popular, as far as I knew, and by our senior year, she shows up in the yearbook’s candid photos taken around campus.
I hadn’t thought about her for a long time, until three years ago when friends were pointing out she’d been nominated for the Seventh Circuit, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein grilled her over her religion, proclaiming that “the dogma lives loudly within you.” At the time, I thought that was a rough Senate hearing.
My daughter was a Notre Dame student, and two years ago, I stopped by to visit Amy at her home in South Bend and catch up. She had been listed as being on the president’s shortlist for a Supreme Court seat, and Kavanaugh was going through his own nomination process at that time.
My daughter had been treating the accusations against him as probably true by default and took an unconcerned view towards the behavior of the press. Amy knows Kavanaugh, spoke well of him, and described what it was like seeing the press contacting her and digging through rumors about him. That changed my daughter’s opinion of how these things go, she told me. I meant to ask her if she were named to the Supreme Court if she’d be willing to go through all of the hatred and attacks on her reputation that would surely be a part of it. But I can’t remember if I did. I reckon we’ll all find out soon enough, though.
As a footnote, if Amy is confirmed to the court, she would be the second Supreme Court justice to come from Rhodes. Our first was Abe Fortas (class of 1930), who was named by President Johnson in 1965. Fortas resigned in 1969 after a series of ethics scandals, but the college gives out the Abe Fortas Award for Excellence in Legal Studies each year. Quite understandable; we’re a small school, and we should still be proud one of our own was elevated to the Supreme Court. May Amy Barrett bring us more honor.Published in