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Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a powerful mind and an athlete’s soul

By Sally Jenkins

22 Sep 2020 · 5 min read

At the heart of any athletic act is self-conception, the chiseling of your own body and character. In that sense, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had the soul of an athlete, not much different from the great woman champion of her generation, Billie Jean King. They started their work at the same time in the early 1970s and moved toward the same end from opposite directions, one with her arm and the other with her head: King, stropping volleys at the net in blue suede sneakers and sequined wide lapels, all dressed-up muscle and discontent, Ginsburg, with that deceptive slim-shouldered stillness in her blue suits, such a steeliness of the brain that she could "take a lawyer who is making a ridiculous argument and just shake him like a dog with a bone," her friend Antonin Scalia said.

This week, the late Supreme Court justice becomes the first woman to lie in state at the Capitol, while King will celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the women's tennis tour she risked her career to spearhead in 1970 for just a $1 contract. The two women only knew each other late in life, but they became friends. On Friday evening, King was on a Zoom call with her fellow eight founders of the Women's Tennis Association, reminiscing about what provoked it all, when she learned of Ginsburg's death. The line fell absolutely silent, the pall visible.

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