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Souter was born in Melrose, Massachusetts. He was the only child of Joseph A. Souter and Helen Hackett Souter. His father was a banker, who died in 1976. He spent most of his childhood and adolescence at his family's farm in Weare, New Hampshire. He attended Concord High School , graduating in 1957.
He went on to Harvard College, from which he received his A.B., majoring in philosophy and writing a senior thesis on Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. He graduated from Harvard magna cum laude in 1961. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was a Rhodes Scholar and chose to attend Magdalen College, Oxford, where he received an A.B. in Jurisprudence from Oxford University and an M.A. in 1963. He then entered Harvard Law School, graduating in 1966.
He first worked as an associate at Orr and Reno in Concord, New Hampshire from 1966 to 1968. But when he was offered a position as an Assistant Attorney General of New Hampshire in 1968, he accepted it. This began his public service. Here he worked in the criminal division, prosecuting cases in the courts. In 1971, Warren Rudman, then the Attorney General of New Hampshire, selected him to be the Deputy Attorney General. This began a lifelong friendship.
In 1976, Souter became the Attorney General of New Hampshire, when Rudman resigned to enter private practice. In 1978, he was named an Associate Justice of the Superior Court of New Hampshire, and was appointed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court as an Associate Justice in 1983. He became a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on May 25, 1990. His old friend Warren Rudman, had since been elected a Senator. Rudman was instrumental in both this appointment, and his appointment to the Supreme Court.
President George H. W. Bush nominated him as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and he took his seat October 9, 1990. The United States Senate approved his seat 90 to 9. The press called him the "stealth justice," since his professional record provoked no real controversy.
Souter, along with Rehnquist and Breyer, has a reputation for being a strong guardian of the court's institutional integrity. Although appointed by a Republican president, he tends to side with liberals rather than the conservatives. He dissented from the Court's opinion on the Bush v. Gore election of 2000 case.
Souter enjoys mountain climbing in New Hampshire during the judicial off-season. He is Co-chair of the We the People National Advisory Committee. He is unmarried, a lifelong bachelor, which has led to speculation of whether or not he is homosexual. Around the time of his confirmation hearings the media found 3 of his former girlfriends.
After he was sworn in he said: "The first lesson, simple as it is, is that whatever court we're in, whatever we are doing, at the end of our task some human being is going to be affected. Some human life is going to be changed by what we do. And so we had better use every power of our minds and our hearts and our beings to get those rulings right."
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