Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Dies at 79

Jurist was found dead of natural causes while on a hunting trip at Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas

Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead at a luxury resort in Texas on Saturday.

The 79-year-old judge was part of a large hunting party checked into Cibolo Creek Ranch, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott confirmed in a statement.

Scalia went to bed Friday night after telling friends he wasn’t feeling well, according to CNN. After failing to appear at breakfast on Saturday morning, his hunting party left the property without him. His body was later discovered in his room.

The standard-bearer for conservative thinking on the Supreme Court, Scalia often openly courted controversy and consistently championed the originalist and textualist modes of legal reasoning, whereby the original and plain meaning of a document, such as the Constitution, governs. His typically caustic, flashy and seamlessly written opinions were among the most anticipated — by supporters and opponents, lawyers and lay people — whenever the court issued a major decision.

Those notable positions included repeated firm stances opposing a constitutional right to abortion; laws that make race, gender or sexual orientation distinctions; and rulings supporting homosexual sex and same-sex marriage. He peppered his opinions — many of them dissenting — with playfully biting phrases like “interpretive jiggery-pokery” and “pure applesauce,” both of which appeared in his recent opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

In a brief statement to reporters, President Obama cited Scalia’s great influence on the court and focused on the late Justice’s home life as a husband to wife Maureen, father of nine children, hunting devotee and opera aficionado — a passion he shared with his friend, fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The president also made clear that he will nominate a replacement.

Scalia immediately became the No. 1 U.S. trending topic on Twitter when news broke.

“He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues,” said Chief Justice John Roberts. “His passing is a great loss to the court and the country he so loyally served. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his family.”

GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz immediately issued a fond remembrance.

“As liberals and conservatives alike would agree, through his powerful and persuasive opinions, Justice Scalia fundamentally changed how courts interpret the Constitution and statutes, returning the focus to the original meaning of the text after decades of judicial activism,” Cruz said.

The late Justice will surely receive tribute at this evening’s Republican debate.

Born on March 11, 1936, in Trenton, New Jersey, Scalia was the only child of an Italian immigrant father and second-generation mother. From the start, he excelled in education. He was the valedictorian of his Jesuit high school in Manhattan and the top of his class at Georgetown University. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he had been an editor on the Harvard Law Review, in 1960.

After several years as a rising young attorney at a major law firm in Cleveland, Ohio, he left to teach and, ultimately, enter the public sector. Through the 1970s, he was a law professor at the University of Virgina, a high-ranking member of President Gerald Ford’s Justice Department and a professor of law at the University of Chicago.

Along the way, he stood out as a leading conservative voice as Ronald Reagan entered office. The Republican president placed Scalia on the influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1982 and then the Supreme Court, via a 98-0 vote in the Senate, in 1986.

At the time of his death, Scalia was the longest-tenured member of the current Supreme Court, having been on the bench for nearly 30 years.