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A Justice for all seasons

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was in Richmond on Friday. And he took back a souvenir he said he’d never forget.

Scalia, recently named Orator in Residence at the University of Richmond, gave a talk at UR in the afternoon, then he attended the annual Red Mass at St. Benedict Church. The Red Mass, a tradition dating back to 1245 in Europe, is an annual religious service for judges, lawyers, law professors and law students. It gets its name from the bright red vestments worn by the priests for the occasion.

After the service, Scalia was the speaker and guest of honor at a dinner hosted by the St. Thomas More Society, the Catholic lawyers group based in Richmond.

In introducing Scalia, UR law professor Kevin Walsh, who clerked for Scalia, noted that the justice cited More, as depicted in the play “A Man for All Seasons,” as his favorite figure in literature. And Scalia discussed More in his talk. More was the chancellor to King Henry VIII, and he refused to capitulate to Henry when he wanted to dump his wife, Catherine of Aragon. Only the pope can grant that wish, More said, even though the papacy at the time was corrupt. Henry didn’t like that answer, and More was beheaded.

After the speech, Society President Eric Gregory and Steve Reardon presented Scalia with a unique gift – a hat just like the one worn by More in the famous Hans Holbein portrait (Take a look at the picture.) Reardon had scoured Richmond and found a hatmaker who could fill the bill.

“I hope you don’t have one like it already,” Gregory said.

Scalia, clearly tickled by his new lid, said no, adding that he’d wear it in an academic procession.

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