Nina Totenberg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dear friend, talks about her legacy

Totenberg, a legal affairs correspondent at NPR who has been friends with Ginsburg for five decades, had her wedding in 2000 officiated by the late Supreme Court justice.
6:59 | 09/21/20

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Transcript for Nina Totenberg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dear friend, talks about her legacy
More on the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her unprecedented legal career taking her to an unlikely place and that is pop culture icon. We'll hear from one of her closest friends in just a moment. Deborah Roberts joins us now with more on such an incredible life. Good morning, deb. Reporter: Good morning, robin. You're right. There have been other supreme court justices who left a mark on the court, few have resonated as profoundly as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She stood barely five feet tall. Her image loomed large. The 87-year-old justice just a fierce fighter in life and work. The world remembers her as a brilliant legal super force. In the latter part of her career justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also became a cultural icon. Her fight for equality getting the full Hollywood treatment in the movie "On the basis of sex." I wasn't what they were looking for. Women are too emotional to be Reporter: With a giant intellect Ginsburg was hailed and dubbed the notorious rbg. This lawyer giving her this nickname seven years ago comparing her to know tore use B.I.G. They both used their words to speak truth to power. Reporter: The justice with the whimsical collars leading the world in memes. You could see the gleam in her eye as she took in the love of the crowd. Reporter: Her image finding its way on to t-shirts, mugs, tattoos. Her cultural impact sealed with Saturday night live paying homage to her in this clip. I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Reporter: In this documentary Ginsburg reacting to this clip. She was able to laugh at Kate Mckinnon's impersonation of her which is over the top, yet there was a real truth behind that impersonation. It gave her a kick. Reporter: Her biggest impact of all may be on the next generation. This weekend social media flooded with parents sharing pictures of their daughters dressed up as the justice, all honoring their role model. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a huge opera buff even appearing on stage a few years back. The tributes and honors pouring in. The governor of New York announcing plans to build a statue in Brooklyn her hometown. Robin? Deb, thank you. Joining me now is Ginsburg's good friend Nina totenberg. Nina, thank you for your time this morning. Our condolences to justice Ginsburg's family and close friends as yourself. You knew her for more than 50 years. When did you meet and how did you become close? I first met her when I started covering the court in my early 20s. I was reading a brief. I didn't know much about my beat at the time. I was reading a brief about sex discrimination. I didn't understand it. I picked up the phone and called her. I got an hour-long lecture on the 14th amendment equal protection guarantee. I was like a stuffed goose afterwards. The next time we met was in person. We were at some conference. It was very boring. So, well, we did what lots of other women do. We went shopping. I'm so glad you're letting us see the other side of her. The fact that she was such a close friend, when you got married in 2000 she officiated the wedding. Almost didn't happen. Because that it did is when you really knew what a commitment meant to justice Ginsburg, right? Correct. She would forbid her husband Marty to call me the night before because she had had a blockage from all the radiation and chemo she had. She said it was my election eve and she was not about to let me be worried. Like thousands of other people who had this experience she showed up the next day to perform the wedding ceremony. Never told me about anything that had happened until after the ceremony, after the dinner. She said, you know, I was in the hospital last night, Nina. Would it be all right if I leave a little early? Everything she went through and she still showed up. There's something that you want to make sure, Nina, people understand about her. What is that? You know, I've been thinking a lot about why she became such a cultural icon in her 80s. In all different forms she was such a stand-up person. She wasn't just a stand-up person for individuals who were her friends or who she knew about. She was a stand-up person for everyone, for women, for minorities, for gays. That was her biggest role in some ways on the court, was that she was a stand-up person for America and for Americans as individuals. Just one of the many reasons she is being celebrated and will be remembered. Nina, thank you very much for your insight in letting us see a side of justice Ginsburg we may not have known. Our sincere condolences to you and her family. Be well. Thank you, robin. Quite a friendship between the two of them. Amy and George, I remember being on a flight from Washington to New York. Justice Ginsburg was on the I've been on planes with famous people before. The reaction from people getting on the plane and seeing her sitting there, I will never, ever forget that and how kind she was to everybody who stopped her. She was busy. She had her papers out. She was working. I have never seen that kind of reaction. Made a mark in so many ways. She earned all that respect. Certainly did.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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