William O. Douglas was a lionlike defender of individual liberty. He was fiercely certain that the simple words of the Bill of Rights were meant to protect the humblest citizen from any exercise of arbitrary power, and he never deviated from that passionate conviction.
Justice Douglas served on the Supreme Court for more than 36 years—longer than any Justice in American history. For all that time, individual freedom in this country had no mightier champion. As he wrote in more than one of his many opinions, "The essential scheme of our Constitution and Bill of Rights was to take Government off the backs of people."
Justice Douglas loved the outdoors with the same intensity he brought to his love of political liberty. He defended the natural and the constitutional heritage of his country with equal vigor. On the Supreme Court bench or in the mountains, William O. Douglas breathed the bracing air of freedom.
As a token of national mourning, I am ordering that the flag of our country be flown at halfstaff on all installations of the United States Government.
Rosalynn and I extend our deepest sympathy to Justice Douglas' wife Cathy, his sister Martha, and to his children and grandchildren. With his colleagues on the Court and all his fellow citizens, we mourn his passing.