Dowdy recalls hunting trips with Scalia

Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died unexpectedly last week at the Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas, was described as one of the nation’s leading public figures. Those that knew him well would add that next to family or church, Scalia liked nothing better than to hunt.  

Scalia, in fact, died at an exclusive 30,000-acre hunting resort “nestled peacefully in the Chinati Mountains of West Texas.”

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“We were scheduled to hunt again on March 19,” businessman and Buckingham resident Ron Dowdy said.

Dowdy and Scalia had gone on numerous hunting trips together over the past several years.

“My hunts with him have always been in Virginia,” Dowdy said. “He liked to fish, too — hunting and fishing in the Heart of Virginia!”

It was a love of hunting that brought Dowdy and Scalia together.

“We had mutual friends,” Dowdy said. “And they invited me into the hunt group several years ago — that’s how I met him.”

From the beginning, Dowdy was impressed with Scalia’s character.

“As a military man, as I am, I looked to him as a leader,” Dowdy said. “He will go down in history as one of the greatest conservative patriarchs we’ve had in modern times.”

Scalia, born on March 11, 1936, in Trenton, N.J., was a practicing lawyer in the 1960s, and then worked in public service in the 1970s with roles in President Richard Nixon’s general counsel and as the assistant attorney general. In the 1980s he became a part of President Ronald Reagan’s Court of Appeals. Scalia was best known as an associate justice for the U.S. Supreme Court, appointed in 1986 by President Reagan.

Dowdy respected Scalia, in addition to his many accomplishments, for his love of family.

“He had nine children and 36 grandchildren,” Dowdy said. “ I think this is important — he really liked (hunting) day trips. He would leave early in the morning and come back that night to his wife and grandchildren — with 36 grandchildren, he always had grandchildren around.”

“He liked to combine his trips with family visits,” Dowdy said of Scalia. “He was excited about coming here for the vice presidential debate in October. He has a daughter that lives in Charlottesville — that would have been his ideal thing, to visit with his family and enjoy the debate.”

Dowdy also appreciated Scalia’s sense of humor.

“He was a fun man to be with, a real jokester,” he said.

Dowdy related an incident during one of their hunting trips.

“Quite often we’d just get tired of walking — that’s what you do bird hunting,” Dowdy said. “I would come up behind his back and say, ‘Nino, I know we’re alone today, so I’ve got your back,’ and he would say to me, ‘Ron, I know how you shoot; I’d rather have you at my back.’”

Dowdy noted that Scalia preferred to hunt unaccompanied by U.S. marshals.

“They mentioned that he did not have any U.S. marshals accompanying him in Texas,” Dowdy said. “He never did with us either. When we’d hunt there’d only be eight of us and quite often an additional Supreme Court justice.”

Few photos were taken during the Virginia hunting trips.

“We were not big into photos,” Dowdy said.

Better than snapshots are the memories Dowdy carries of hunting trips with his friend.

“He was a fantastic speaker — just a good, humorous person,” Dowdy said. “He loved the courts and constitutional law. If you were a conservative, you really, really loved what he did.”

“He would have been 80 next month,” Dowdy said. “If you have to go, going in your sleep is a good way of doing it. No scandal involved — just going to sleep.”

The Cibolo Creek Ranch “nestled peacefully in the mountains of West Texas” is a place, Dowdy believes, where his friend Antonin Scalia also found peace.