Aug. 29, 2005 — -- Trailblazer. Role model. Supreme Court justice.
Now Sandra Day O'Connor is taking on a new role -- children's book author. O'Connor talked exclusively today with "Good Morning America" about life since announcing her plans to retire from the Supreme Court on July 1, and her new children's book, "Chico," which she admitted was easier to write than a court opinion.
"It's much easier, especially when it's something from your childhood that you remember so well, as I remember the times I had with my favorite little horse, Chico," O'Connor said.
"Chico" is the story of O'Connor's favorite horse as a child growing up on a remote Arizona ranch.
O'Connor was born on March 26, 1930, in El Paso, Texas, to Harry and Ada Mae Wilkey Day. The family owned a 155,000-acre ranch in southeastern Arizona which her grandfather, Henry Clay Day, established in the 1880s when Arizona was still a territory.
Because the ranch was so isolated (the closest town was 35 miles away), her parents sent her to live with her grandmother in El Paso when she was 5. But O'Connor returned to the ranch at age 13, where she branded and herded cattle, drove tractors and fired rifles.
"I wanted to be a cattle rancher when I grew up," O'Connor said.
Instead, she settled for being the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court.
O'Connor earned her bachelor's and law degrees from Stanford University and served as deputy county attorney of San Mateo County, Calif., from 1952 to 1953 and a civilian attorney for Quartermaster Market Center, Frankfurt from 1954 to 1957. From 1958 to 1960, she practiced law in Maryvale, Ariz., and served as assistant attorney general of Arizona from 1965 to 1969.
She was appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 1969 and re-elected to two two-year terms. In 1975, she was elected judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court and served until 1979 when she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
President Reagan nominated O'Connor as the first female and 102nd justice to the Supreme Court in 1981, and she assumed her seat on Sept. 25 of that year.
In her 24 years on the court, she frequently surprised observers with her political independence.
O'Connor has not commented publicly on her reasons for stepping down, although various news sources have pointed to her husband John's battle with Alzheimer's disease.
O'Connor is reviewing petitions for bases to be brought before the court in the new term until her successor is confirmed, at which time she will return to Arizona.
O'Connor said she is looking forward to having more time for her passion -- fly-fishing. She is also an avid golfer, tennis player and horsewoman.
O'Connor's three sons, Scott, Brian and Jay, and her grandchildren live in Arizona.