Any serious student of California politics knows the story of the late Ralph Dills, the man with the longest tenure in the State Legislature (6 terms in the Assembly; 8 in the Senate).
He’s remembered for having had the courage to vote against the internment of Japanese-Americans in Word War II, not to mention playing a pretty mean sax (pictured left). He’s also remembered for being the poster boy for term limits — a candidate who once ran under the slogan “too old to quit”.
By the 1990s, and well into his late-80s in his final years in office, Dills was showing early signs of failing health and memory loss – what would become a sad and tragic retirement.
I thought of the late Senator Dills the other way while watching the coverage of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Steven’s planned retirement. Not that Stevens is anywhere near the same condition, mentally or physically, as was Dills. But, given that Justice Stevens celebrates his 90th birthday a few days from now (April 20), maybe it’s time to revisit the issue of age limits and public service.