Speaking with PEOPLE this week, Hillary Clinton remembered late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for demonstrating a "disciplined, deliberate effort at undoing discrimination"

By Sean Neumann
September 23, 2020 12:29 PM

As thousands took turns saying goodbye to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building, they were joined by former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a moment of silence.

Dressed in black suits, the Clintons arrived around noon to pay their respects to Ginsburg, on the first of three days set to honor the late justice.

Ginsburg died at 87 last Friday from complications of metastatic cancer.

She will lie in repose on the top steps of the Supreme Court building Wednesday and again Thursday, before laying in state at the U.S. Capitol building.

"Ruth was a trailblazer, and obviously an icon for women in general, and particularly for young lawyers like myself," Mrs. Clinton, 72, told PEOPLE earlier this week. "She demonstrated a disciplined, deliberate effort at undoing discrimination in the law that favored men or disfavored women. She was so focused on making a case that would win over courts but also eventually win over the public."

President Clinton, 74, nominated Ginsburg to the high court in 1993.

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pay respects as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pay their respects
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In the 27 years after, Ginsburg went on to play a vital role in the country's progress towards equality. She was the 107th Justice on the Supreme Court, and just the second woman, after Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in 1981.

"In private, Ruth was funny, witty, good company," Mrs. Clinton told PEOPLE. "She loved the arts—obviously opera, but also theater, music."

Mrs. Clinton, the first woman to become a major party presidential nominee in 2016, added: "She [Ginsburg] had a full and rich life and she’s somebody who I think is really worthy of all the adulation that is being put forth about her, particularly coming from young people—and not just young women.”

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Chief Justice John Roberts speaks during a private ceremony for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court
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People wait for the arrival of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to arrive at the Supreme Court, where she will lie in repose Wednesday and Thursday
| Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Displaying how great an impact Ginsburg made throughout her nearly three decades on the bench, pedestrians and former presidents alike stopped at the Court building to remember the justice.

Others, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, honored Ginsburg through written statements this week.

President Jimmy Carter, who appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1980, said she was "a powerful legal mind and a staunch advocate for gender equality" who "has been a beacon of justice during her long and remarkable career."

Tributes came from both sides of the aisle, including President George W. Bush.

"She dedicated many of her 87 remarkable years to the pursuit of justice and equality, and she inspired more than one generation of women and girls," Bush said in a statement last week. "Justice Ginsburg loved our country and the law."

Ginsburg will lie in repose again Thursday before becoming the first woman and first Jewish person ever to lie in state inside the Capitol building on Friday.

She will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery next week, the court said.