Posted April 24, 2015 1:52 PM
Updated March 29, 2018 2:53 PM

Mikva’s colleagues: A who’s who of U.S. history

During the course of his career, Abner J. Mikva served alongside some giants in U.S. history and played a part in the careers of dozens of other public servants.

Here’s a list of some of Mikva’s connections in history:

•As a U.S. Supreme Court law clerk in 1951 and 1952, Mikva’s clerkship overlapped with William Rehnquist, who clerked for associate justice Robert H. Jackson. The clerks often got together to play poker, and Rehnquist was not a particularly good player.

When Sen. Adlai Stevenson III called Mikva in 1971 to ask if there were any reasons why he should vote against Rehnquist’s nomination to Supreme Court justice, Mikva joked that Rehnquist’s habit of drawing inside straights in poker was one.

All kidding aside, Mikva said, “No, you should vote for him. He’ll be a good justice even though he’ll be very conservative.”

•In private practice, Mikva was a partner at Goldberg, Devoe, Shadur & Mikva, and two of his former partners also became judges.

The late Arthur J. Goldberg became a Supreme Court associate justice and later U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. U.S. District Judge Milton I. Shadur is still on the bench.

A friend painted a portrait of the four partners as the faces on the side of Mount Rushmore as a present, which Mikva has on the wall of his apartment today.

•While in the Illinois General Assembly and later in Congress, Mikva served with Rep. Henry Hyde and Sen. Paul Simon. Hyde, a conservative Republican, testified on Mikva’s behalf during confirmation hearings to appoint him to the federal bench.

•As a member of the U.S. House, Mikva worked with Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. He later became White House counsel for President Bill Clinton.

•Mikva served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit with Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Kenneth Starr was also a judge on the court from 1983 to 1989 and later led the independent counsel investigation that led to Clinton’s impeachment.

•While serving as White House counsel in 1994, Mikva brought Elena Kagan, now a Supreme Court justice, onto his staff as associate counsel. He also worked with senior adviser Rahm Emanuel, now Chicago’s mayor.

•Mikva met President Barack Obama when they were professors at the University of Chicago Law School, and they have been friends ever since.

Students were drawn to Obama, Mikva said, and he was a little envious of the ratings students gave to him at the end of the semester.

“Obama always had 9s and 10s, and the students just loved the way he taught,” he said.

•When Mikva received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014, his former law school classmate and colleague in the U.S. House of Representatives, Patsy Takemoto Mink, was also honored.

Mink was the first woman of color to be elected to the House and was awarded the medal posthumously.