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Retired Justice John Paul Stevens Talks History, His New Book And Ping-Pong

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tags: Supreme Court, John Paul Stevens



When you interview a 99-year-old Supreme Court justice, one who has written some of the landmark opinions of modern times, you don't imagine in advance that the subplot of the interview is going to be Ping-Pong.

But in a conversation with retired Justice John Paul Stevens, his racket skills came up almost immediately.

During Stevens' 35 years on the nation's highest court, I had seen him several times in his chambers. Usually without his jacket. But always wearing his signature bow tie. This time, though, he was wearing a red and white polo shirt and blue plaid Bermuda shorts. He had just finished a game of table tennis at his condominium in Naples, Fla. His eyebrows were wild, and he was wearing what appeared to be two watches, one a traditional timepiece and the other some sort of a Fitbit-type contraption.

Stevens has always been very physically active — and competitive. He used to arrive at the Supreme Court some days still dressed in his tennis clothes and literally jumping up and down if he had won his early morning contest. He said that these days he can no longer get around the tennis court safely, but he can stand at the tennis table and play a decent game of Ping-Pong. One or two days a week he also plays nine holes of golf. "I don't hit the ball very far," he says, "but at least I can hit it." And he swims in the ocean (he does the crawl), though he admits ruefully that he makes it in and out of the waves with the aid of neighbors. Oh yes, and he plays bridge several days a week, too. 

Apparently, none of that was enough for the justice, who retired in 2010 at age 90. So he has written a book, his third. This one is called The Making of a Justice: Reflections on My First 94 Years (the book ends on his 94th birthday).

Read entire article at NPR

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