Good afternoon, Ilona to you and the family, Reverend Baker, all distinguished members of our judiciary, friends of Randy Holland.
I’m certainly honored to be here today to pay tribute on behalf of the people of our great state to one of the state’s finest jurists and greatest thinkers. I must say, in light of that, I feel a little intimidated, as I mentioned to you on the phone Ilona, to speak in front of such distinguished lawyers and jurists, but I’ll do my best on behalf of the folks in our state.
We all know of Justice Holland’s role as premier legal historian. He was a dedicated chronicler of the founding documents and those who built the original architecture of our state. We also know that he loved to share his knowledge with others. Put together, everyone in this room could probably form the Justice Holland Law Library, with all the copies of his books he sent to us over the years.
Shortly after I was sworn in as lieutenant governor over 20 years ago now, my first time as an elected official, Justice Holland sent me a copy of the reference guide he wrote to the Delaware State Constitution. The book had recently been published, but somehow I thought it was Randy’s way of telling me that if I had taken this oath to uphold the state constitution, I better know and understand what it says.
As lieutenant governor, I never really had a reason to consult the book. But now, as governor, it sits on the side of my desk. I think Randy would be happy to know that his book has more than just academic value. It’s actually been useful for this governor.
Randy was one of the smartest people I think I’ve ever met. Though Ilona tells me that Randy would say, humble always, that he’s not even the smartest person in his family. That his brother is way smarter.
Recently, I saw Randy speak at the 50th anniversary of the Family Court. Many of you were there. I always found it fascinating to watch him speak. It felt like you could actually hear his mind thinking as he spoke. Each word is carefully chosen to deliver the message with the precision of an expert jurist.
Randy and I shared an interest in Delaware history, and especially in John Dickinson and his role as a Founding Father. And a few years ago, we took a field trip together to the Dickinson Plantation. It was great. It was a fascinating visit as Randy shared with us his knowledge of the colonial period.
I feel lucky to have spent that time with him, and I will miss those opportunities in the future. I know many of us today are feeling as I do, like we didn’t have enough time with Randy. It certainly feels like he had so much left to teach us all.
None could be feeling that more deeply than Randy’s wife and high school sweetheart, Ilona and his son Ethan, and the rest of the family. Ilona what a special, beautiful thing to have shared a half century of love and joy with the kind of soul as Randy. The hearts of so many Delawareans are with you and the family.
Two years ago, Justice Holland represented our state before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was, of course, defending Delaware’s constitution, the provisions that ensure we have a politically balanced judiciary. And I know from speaking to Ilona that Randy considered this a highlight of his career, a career with a long list of highlights. For me, having Randy Justice Holland in our corner was an honor. It also meant we won a unanimous decision.
In losing Randy we have lost both a gem and a giant. In a bench and bar full of talented writers and thinkers. Justice Randy Holland was in a class of his own. He combined a remarkable intellect with a nobility of spirit that made him the leading light of Delaware’s renowned legal community. He was the jewel in the crown of our judiciary.
And while there is no replacing Randy’s gentle smile or generous warmth, we’re blessed that so much of his wisdom is committed to writing and is now part of our state’s rich history he so diligently studied.
When Justice Holland retired, I presented him with Delaware’s highest honor. The Order of the First State. The order was presented to, and I quote, “bear witness to Justice Holland’s outstanding efforts, knowledge, integrity, prudence, and ability, as displayed by the evidence of his accomplishments and for his consistent dedication to serving his community and his state.” Close quote.
As President Biden would say on an occasion like this, “There will come a day when the thought of Randy will bring a smile to our face rather than a tear to our eyes.” I know I will take comfort and joy in being reminded of Randy and his legacy each time I open one of his books, and I will smile with a renewed commitment to our state and a gratitude for the incredible contributions made to her by Justice Randy Holland.
May God bless Ilona and the Holland family. May Randy rest in peace.
Governor John Carney took office as Delaware’s 74th Governor in January 2017 and began his second term Governor on January 19, 2021. Prior to becoming governor, Carney served three terms as Delaware’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Carney also served two terms as Delaware’s Lieutenant Governor. Under Governor Tom Carper, Carney served as Delaware’s Secretary of Finance and Deputy Chief of Staff. Before that, he was Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for New Castle County, and on the staff of then-Senator Joe Biden. He attended St. Mark’s High School and led the school’s football team to its first state championship in 1973. After graduating high school, Governor Carney attended Dartmouth College, where he continued his football career and earned All-Ivy League and Most Valuable Player honors. When John returned to Delaware, he coached Freshmen Football on the staff of UD Head Coach Tubby Raymond while earning a Master’s Degree in Public Administration at the University of Delaware.
Good afternoon, Salaam and peace be with all of you. I know you’re going to hear these next few words often. Thank you. Thank you for coming today. To honor Justice Randy J. Holland and to show solidarity and support to his dear family. I am honored to be here because I had the good fortune of being his pastor in Milford and in Lewes. Would you pray with me?
Almighty God, Lord of Creation, look upon your people gathered here with love and kindness. Meet us in our places of need, sorrow and brokenness. Give comfort to the sorrowful, strength to the weary, and hope to the disconsolate. We thank you for your servant, Justice Randy J. Holland, and cherish every fond memory we have of him.
Lord, keep them vivid in our hearts and minds and inspire us by the example of Randy’s well-lived life as a husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend, colleague, professor and associate justice. In the warmth of your holy presence, comfort all who grieve this day, especially his dear wife and family.
We thank you, Lord, for Randy’s remarkable life of service and for the quality of his character, the depth of his intellect and his laudable service to the people of Delaware and all humankind. May we, who celebrate his exemplary legacy, recommit ourselves to all things noble, true and just that we might usher in a more just world, and grant most gracious Lord that we may hear the call that Randy heard.
“He has shown you O mortal what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?” May we respond as Randy did, with purpose and action, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. These things we pray with thankful hearts in your holy name. Amen.
Rev. Earle Baker was a pastor on Delmarva for 40 years. Prior to retiring, he served at Bethel United Methodist Church in Lewes, DE.
Learn more: https://www.capegazette.com/article/rev-earle-baker-set-retire-after-40-years-delmarva/200369
Randy J. Holland Celebration of Life: Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, KG, First President of the United Kingdom Supreme Court Remarks
Good afternoon. I’m speaking to you from the Great Hall of Lincoln’s Inn, one of the four English Inns of Court.
Jen, Ethan, Randy, and Ilona Holland in the great hall of Lincoln’s Inn
Lincoln’s Inn was Randy’s Inn. He had the great distinction of having been elected as an honorary bencher of this Inn, and he was held here in very great affection. Only two other United States judges had that honor, Justice John Paul Stevens and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. So you see, Randy was in good company and Randy was good company. The memories that we have of him, memories which you will be sharing today, serve only to underscore the grief that we feel at the loss of that company.
Lincoln’s Inn and the other Inns of Court date back well over 500 years. Their membership was and is made up of judges, barristers and law students. We dine together in our great halls in fellowship and friendship that endures when we find ourselves pitched against each other as adversaries in the courts.
Chief Justice Warren Burger was so impressed by our Inns of Court that he established the American Inns of Court to promote the same qualities of legal excellence, civility, professionalism, and ethics.
For my money, there was no one who better personified those qualities than Randy Holland. He didn’t need to join an Inn of Court to acquire them. They were innate elements of his personality.
He was not a showy man but modest and a little understated. It took a while to appreciate his learning, his wisdom, and his quiet humor. It’s no surprise that he should have been made a trustee of the American Inns of Court Foundation and that at the turn of the century he should have become its president.
It was my good fortune and that of Christylle, my wife, that this office brought Randy and Ilona to London and that we developed a close friendship. This has given us great joy together on both sides of the Atlantic. In this, we were not alone. The bells of Lincoln’s Inn that tolled for Randy expressed the grief of many friends that he had made in London and also, I know in Ireland.
Randy added to my library two books that I especially prize, each with a foreword by your Chief Justice John Roberts. He coauthored one, an account of the members of my Inn, Middle Temple, who played key roles in the American Revolution. He edited the other on Magna Carta with contributions from his friends Lord Igor Judge, who was then our Lord Chief Justice, and Dame Mary Arden who went on to become a justice of our Supreme Court.
Randy and I shared a platform at the International Forum on the Rule of Law in Qatar. More recently, we were appointed to the panel of international arbitrators set up to support the rule of law in Kazakhstan. I had hoped that we might find ourselves there together, but it was not to be. It has been a privilege to share with you memories of an outstanding lawyer, but more significantly, a wonderful friend.
The Right Honourable Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, KG, PC, KC was the last Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and the first Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales to be head of the English judiciary when that function was transferred from the Lord Chancellor in April 2006. Before his chief justiceship, he was Master of the Rolls from 2000 to 2005. Queen Elizabeth II elevated him as a Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter in 2011.
Justice Holland was a remarkable man. From humble beginnings, he raised himself up to become an accomplished lawyer, a model jurist, a beloved professor, prolific author, and a national and international legal scholar.
But it wasn’t his impressive CV that made him so extraordinary. What made him extraordinary—and the foundation of his success—was his character. His love of his family, his compassion for all people, and his tireless service to the greater good left an indelible mark on our State and on all who knew him.
The author, Stephen Covey, said that a great leader is one who can communicate to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves. The same can be said of a great mentor.
And that’s what Justice Holland was. To me, and I’m sure to nearly every other person in this room. For 30 years, he was my North Star, a consistent, guiding light that I looked up to for direction in my professional and personal life.
As a mentor, Justice Holland was like a master gardener. He knew how to foster growth in people in ways that others couldn’t always see or understand. He understood people so well because he invested time in getting to know them. As a leader in the bench and the bar, he strove to defend and the uphold the ideals of our profession—the principles of professionalism and ethics—that gave the rest of us a better environment in which to grow and flourish.
He also planted seeds in all of us—the seeds of critical thinking, of civil discourse, and of answering the call to service and giving back. He helped to nurture those seeds by opening doors, removing impediments, and connecting us to resources that he knew would foster our growth. He also gently coaxed many of us to blossom into the leaders of our profession and our government that he knew we could be—leaders with energy, imagination, and compassion.
Justice Holland’s ability to cultivate the best in people impacted so many lives—but it was especially meaningful to generations of women lawyers. He was a champion for women in the law.
In 1991, as a new lawyer in a profession still led predominantly by men, Justice Holland sensed my insecurity, and he helped me find my voice—quite literally. Rather than have me draft bench memos for him (which is the primary responsibility of most law clerks), Justice Holland would sit down with me and ask me for my opinion about a case. At first, these conversations were mildly terrifying, mostly because they frequently occurred while I was driving him to oral arguments in Dover in his red station wagon.
In his gentle but probing way, Justice Holland drew me out of my shell, taught me how to think critically, to articulate my points cogently, and to keep my eyes on the road. The respect that he gave me by valuing my opinion and the confidence he showed in me by letting me drive him in his family’s car changed my life. His respect and trust in me taught me to respect and trust myself.
And I know that my story isn’t unique. Justice Holland carefully tended to all who sought his help. The fruits of his spirit are evident in this room today, and the values that he instilled in us are transcendent.
To Ilona, Ethan, Jennifer, Rori, and Chloe:
Thank you for sharing your beloved husband, father, and Grandy with the rest of us. We are all better people for it.
Gayle Lafferty is the court administrator for the State of Delaware. She served as chief staff attorney and staff attorney for the Delaware Supreme Court for 24 years.
I am writing this letter to you, because, as you well know, despite all my attempts, and your repeated requests, I haven’t been able to call you by your first name — at least not to your face. From where I stood, respecting you deeply, and always grateful, so very grateful that you were there for me from day one, — as far as I was concerned, your first name was “Justice”. But I WAS able to call you Randy when I was writing to you, hence this letter.
Thirty-one years ago, almost to the day, I received the first ever telephone call from you. I was on the job at the Bar Association only a few days. When I picked up the phone I heard you say: “Hi Rina, this is Randy Holland.” “I am calling to welcome you to the Delaware Bar, and if there is anything I can do to help, feel free to contact me.” The first thought that came to my mind, was that there absolutely had to be more than one Randy Holland at the Bar, because the thought that you– would call to welcome me and offer your help, was something I couldn’t quite fathom. So — after our conversation, I quickly checked the 1991 legal directory, only to find out that YOU, the person who just phoned me, was indeed, the one and only Randy Holland.
This telephone call was the beginning of what would become three extraordinary decades in which I was privileged to have you as my trusted advisor, mentor, coach, and sometimes just angel, who always knew the right answers to the numerous questions I had asked you over the years and, with few words, in your quiet reassuring way, you always steered me to see people and situations in a way that led to the best possible decisions. And when I thanked you profusely every time, you just kept encouraging me to keep calling anytime and to please call you Randy. I believe I have done almost everything you have ever asked me to do, except for these two things: I just couldn’t call you Randy, and I hesitated greatly before calling you for help. But call you I did, quite q few times in thirty-one years.
I remember the questions I used to ask you. Most of them revolved around navigating human interactions. You showed me ways I have never known before, of how I could handle even the most aggressive people, — your way! The Randy Holland way, with grace, consideration and compassion!
I especially remember one particular dilemma I faced some twenty years ago, when someone had asked me to write a chapter in a memorial book for a person I have known since we were kids, and who had died prematurely! I told you how I didn’t want this assignment, and I struggled with it, as I didn’t like this person, and couldn’t think of anything nice to say about him. “What shall I do?” I asked you then?” Shall I write the truth as I saw it—or – shall I just lie and say things I don’t mean?
“Do neither,” you told me, “there is some good in most people. Find that good and write just– that.” “The only good I can find in him, is when I remember him as a little boy” I said to you, and you replied: “then write what he was like as a little boy.” — I did — the book was published, and his family was delighted.
In 1994, with the new millennium around the corner, — you, in partnership with Harvey Rubenstein envisioned and launched a monumental undertaking to write and publish an extensive history of the Delaware Bar in the Twentieth Century. You assembled a remarkable group of people, to write and edit the manuscript and invited me to join you, to write a chapter and to assist in the design of the book, and you invited my husband Steve to take the many pages that had been received and gather them into a beautiful book. And this, as it were, was just the beginning! Three more times you invited me to join you, Harvey, and your team and three more books followed: “The Delaware Constitution of 1897, The First 100 Years” in 1997, “Delaware Supreme Court Golden Anniversary” in 2001; and finally, in August of 2020, at the heart of the pandemic, came a phone call from you requesting that we join you in creating another new book.
This time, I tried to talk you into choosing someone else, perhaps younger and more tech savvy. “Why us?” But you wouldn’t hear of it. “It has to be you and Steve,” you said — and as you know I’ve always done what you’ve asked of me, well, almost always.
And so, in 2021, for the fourth time in twenty years we were privileged to be part of your book team. Once again, history has been recorded by you and the many talented writers you assembled, and resulted in the beautifully written and designed “Delaware Supreme Court History.” The only thing I couldn’t imagine at that time, was that this would be our last project together.
These, as well as all the other books you authored and edited, make for a treasure trove of history, a priceless gift for future generations of students and historians. As for me, I am so glad, proud and very grateful to you for including me in these endeavors.
I want to thank you so much. For your wisdom –, good counsel and support on so many occasions, and for helping me out of some sticky situations. Thank you for stopping by at the Bar Association office often just to see us. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the reason I got to know Ilona whom I so greatly admire.
I wrote this letter to you Randy, but also to Ilona, Ethan, Jennifer, Rori and Chloe, your brother James and sister-in-law Nancy and your whole extended family. Through your eyes and words, over the years, I witnessed the love– that so strongly bonded all of you, and the many blessings you shared.
So many people loved you and will miss you so very much Randy!
So will I!
With the greatest affection and gratitude,
Rina Marks served as Executive Director of the Delaware State Bar Association for 25 years (1991-2016).
Ilona, I am grateful for this opportunity to honor the man who inspired me to become a lawyer. Randy Holland gave me my first job as a practicing attorney, and he was my valued friend, colleague, and mentor for over 40 years. I am far from unique: all of Randy’s law clerks revered him, as did generations of Delaware lawyers. Others may dwell on his professional and public accomplishments. Ilona asked me to highlight Randy’s personal qualities that would be meaningful to his granddaughters, Rori and Chloe. That is a privilege. Several constant qualities defined Randy Holland. I would be fortunate if my own granddaughters might remember them about me.
In 1974, in a Sussex Courthouse, I watched him argue on behalf of my father in an election contest. Randy was mesmerizing, weaving together iconic cases with new authority to support the fundamental principle that in Delaware, there is no wrong without a remedy. Nine years later, he offered me my first legal job, with Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnel, where Mike Rich and I worked alongside him. Mike and I have many wonderful memories of those years.
One of Randy’s constant qualities: he had his priorities right. Mike reminded me of one story. While Randy was taking the Bar Review course to prepare for the bar exam, he shocked all the other lawyers by leaving right in the middle. He had more important concerns: he was marrying his high school sweetheart, Ilona.
As I said, priorities. You fail the Bar Exam, it’s there next year. Next year, the love of your life might not say “I do.” Worse, she might say it to someone else.
Another constant quality: Randy encouraged everyone around him to excel. Soon after I joined Morris Nichols, Randy urged me to apply for the judiciary. I said I was too young, too inexperienced. Randy sat in my office, quietly encouraging me, assuring me that I was capable and urging me to commit to public service. That changed my life. And he did that again and again, urging me to accept new challenges, new opportunities. Years later, he asked if I was applying to become Chancellor. I said I didn’t think I had a chance. Randy paused, looked at me and said, “You know, Bill, if you don’t apply, it’s a sure thing that you won’t be considered and you won’t have a chance.” He was so right about that.
Again, the constant: try, even if you think maybe it won’t work out. Randy taught me, like so many others, that success can surprise you.
A third constant: Randy always wanted to help. There was the time, at Morris Nichols, when Mike’s wife Linda asked Randy to keep Mike late at the office so she could prepare a surprise birthday party. Randy, happy to assist, persuaded Mike to stay late to help on a client matter. A few hours later, Linda called Randy to ask, “Where’s Mike?” Randy had done his job too well: now he couldn’t get Mike to leave. It ended happily, though. Randy finally eased Mike out the door to the surprise party waiting for him.
The same was true when he returned to private practice in 2017. Every day he came into my office to ask: how was my family doing? what was I working on? how could he help?
Time and again he encouraged me when I thought a cause or position was hopeless. So many times, I asked Randy to critique a court argument or conference remarks. He always said yes, was always there to listen, always stayed positive, always encouraging. No matter how much I thought we were lost, he always kept faith, never gave up.
History books will remember Randy for his scholarship and legal opinions. His friends will remember the example he set.
Another constant: Randy never took shortcuts, not with clients, not as a Justice, not with friends. He took the principled approach, with faith that right prevails. He treated everyone with the same courtesy, respect, kindness, and generosity of spirit. These qualities informed both his private character and his public demeanor, especially as a Justice. They made him remarkable and beloved.
The final constant I’ll mention, though there are many others, was Randy’s motto. He believed “your life is your message.” He lived that message, bringing out the best in each of us, as a model for individual betterment, for being the best you can be. Randy’s message was love of his family, warmth and kindness toward others, and service to humanity. He lived his message quietly, considerately, and gracefully, principled in thought and deed, as Randy was kind, compassionate, and generous.
“Show, don’t tell” is a writing cliché, but also Randy’s guide to a good life. He showed us every bit of the message I’m telling you now.
Over the past four decades, I often hoped for an occasion to thank him, publicly, so others could know the qualities and characteristics that made him so important to us. I wish this were not that occasion. But, despite the tremendous loss and the sorrow that shrouds our hearts today, I can hear him telling me, in his quiet and reassuring way: you did well, Bill, don’t worry, it will be alright in the end.
That is Randy Holland’s enduring legacy: his teachings, his guidance, his compassion. I want to share with Rori and Chloe the constants of their grandfather’s character that he shared so readily with me, with us all, and that are theirs as well. It’s a challenge to live up to that example, but also a source of strength. I can think of no better way to thank him than to go forward and share the memory and the example of Randy Holland, who I am honored to call a mentor and friend.
Former Chancellor William B. Chandler III is a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
Mr. Chandler joined the firm from the Delaware Court of Chancery, the nation’s leading court for corporate law cases, particularly those relating to change of control and other corporate law issues. He was appointed Chancellor in 1997, after serving as Vice Chancellor since 1989. Widely regarded as one of the country’s most influential judges on issues of corporate law and governance, he issued more than a thousand opinions and presided over some of the most contentious and high-profile corporate law disputes in the country, including those involving The Walt Disney Company, Yahoo, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, eBay, Citigroup, Dow Chemical, and, most recently, the Air Products/Airgas dispute. Many of his rulings have become required reading for M&A and business law practitioners, and he has written and lectured widely on numerous critical corporate law issues.
Prior to his appointment to the Court of Chancery, Mr. Chandler served as resident judge of the Delaware Superior Court from 1985 to 1989. He previously was an associate with Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell and served as legal counsel to Pete duPont, the former governor of Delaware.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Chandler taught commercial law, legislative process, and remedies at the University of Alabama School of Law. He currently teaches a law course in Advanced Corporations at the University of Chicago.
Mr. Chandler is a member of the American Law Institute and a trustee of the Yale Center for Corporate Governance, and the Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance.
Ilona, Ethan, Jennifer, Rori, Chloe, members of the Holland family, and distinguished guests:
Today we say goodbye to one of Delaware’s greatest public servants. We will long remember Justice Randy Holland as an exceptional lawyer; teacher; scholar; author; trusted advisor to national and international legal organizations; a distinguished jurist who served over 30 years on the Delaware Supreme Court with four Chief Justices; he penned over 700 reported opinions and thousands of unreported decisions; he was the recipient of countless awards and accolades. Justice Holland rubbed elbows with US Supreme Court Justices and dignitaries from around the world.
But many here today knew Randy from another side of his rich life: Husband. Father. Brother. Grandy. Colleague. Right before I joined the Supreme Court in 2015, I received one of Randy’s trademark notes, written in blue felt tip pen, congratulating me on my confirmation and welcoming me to the Court. For two years I came to know Randy as a colleague, a mentor, and a friend. It is not easy to get 5 Justices to agree on the weighty issues that confront the Supreme Court. But when it came to decision time, Randy brought to bear his 30 years of Supreme Court experience, keen intellect, and genuine good nature. He knew how to build consensus. He was also a good listener, which brought added weight to his opinion when he did speak. Randy was a model judge. It was a joy to have joined him in his last years as a Supreme Court Justice. I know my colleagues feel the same way.
Before we start the program, I wanted to say thank you to Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University. The University has graciously hosted us for this event and gone above and beyond to make sure it runs smoothly. I’d also like to single out Gayle Lafferty, our State Court Administrator and former Holland law clerk. Despite her backbreaking work as Court Administrator, she has worked tirelessly with the Holland family to bring this event together. Thank you Gayle.
We will sequence the event without introductions in the order in your program. Our first speaker is Governor John Carney.
The Honorable Collins J. Seitz, Jr. was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware on November 8, 2019. He previously served as a Justice of the Supreme Court from April 2015 to November 2019. Prior to his appointment, Chief Justice Seitz was a founding partner of Seitz Ross Aronstam & Moritz LLP. Before founding Seitz Ross, Chief Justice Seitz was a partner of Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz LLP in Wilmington Delaware.
A member of the Delaware Bar since 1983, Chief Justice Seitz served as a board member and chair of the Board of Bar Examiners, and a board member of the Board on Professional Responsibility. Both federal and state courts often appointed Chief Justice Seitz as a Master and Trustee to oversee complex corporate, commercial and intellectual property cases. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Chief Justice Seitz received his undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware and his law degree from the Villanova University School of Law.
Supreme Court of the United States
Washington, D. C. 20543
August 29, 2007
JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG
The Honorable Randy J. Holland
Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware
Thanks for the photographic copy of a very fine portrait, and the article telling of Simmie Knox’s earlier painting of you. His talent should have been recognized sooner, but isn’t it grand that he is now thriving.
Every best wish,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court of the United States
Washington, D.C. 20543
JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG
June 2, 2005
The Honorable Randy J. Holland
Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware
You have chosen your portrait artist well.
Simmie has most recently done the portrait of my D.C. Circuit colleague, Harry T. Edwards, unveiling set for November 4.
Every best wish,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
In 1959, my dad was 12 year old. My grandfather was the cafeteria manager at a woolen mill in Milford, DE. A young man named Simmie Knox worked there and offered to paint portraits as a way to earn money and practice his art. My grandfather took him up on it, and for my entire childhood a portrait of my dad as a 12 year old, along with another of his brother, hung proudly on the walls of my grandparents’ house on NW 2nd street in Milford.
In high school, my dad and my uncle also worked at the same textile factory. It was tough work at a woolen mill in the summer. I grew up hearing stories of the dust from the wool swirling in the heat, allergies, humidity, and heavy machinery. The experience was so impactful, that Dad kept his commercial truck endorsement active on his driver’s license his entire life.
Simmie went on to the Tyler School of Art and began painting portraits professionally. Over the years, his portfolio placed him among the top of his craft. He’s painted Hank Aaron, Mohammad Ali, Oprah, the Clintons, Thurgood Marshall, David Dinkins… the list is incredible.
Almost 50 years after the first portrait of my dad, Mr. Knox painted a second portrait – this time for dad’s appointment to the Delaware Supreme Court.
In this portrait, dad asked to include his wedding ring, his Lincoln’s Inn tie, his book on the Delaware constitution, and a family photo. I wore the same tie when I have his eulogy.
As one of only a half-dozen black students at the school, Knox recalled feeling isolated in the dining hall, ignored by white students.
“Every now and then, some brave soul followed the courage of conviction,” he says.
While attending school and working at a textile factory in Milford, Del., he painted an 11-year-old Randy Holland at the request of Holland’s father, who worked with Knox at the factory. Nearly a half-century later, Holland returned the favor by asking Knox to paint his portrait when he was appointed to the Delaware Supreme Court.
When Justice Ginsburg died, dad wrote an article for the Delaware State Bar Association which brought the three of them together:
I knew that Justice Ginsburg had her portrait painted by the renowned-Randy J. Holland
artist, Simmie Knox. I wrote to her that he was also going to paint my
portrait. I told her that he was a longtime family friend who had previously painted my portrait when I was a teenager and he was a college
student with no training. She was happy to hear my story about Simmie.
She wrote that she appreciated his talent in portraying her, after a recent
illness, “as I hoped I would be after my health and strength were restored.”
After my dad died, I found two letters from Justice Ginsburg to my dad about Mr. Knox’s work.
What an amazing shared connection. Two men from humble beginnings, who met at a woolen mill in Milford, followed their hearts, never quit, and fulfilled their dreams.