Robert Bork, whose long political career was most noteworthy for his controversial rejection from the Supreme Court in the 1980s, has died at the age of 85.
Son Robert H. Bork Jr. confirmed his father died at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va. The son said Bork died from complications of heart ailments.
The brilliant, blunt Bork's confirmation hearings helped draw the modern boundaries of cultural fights over abortion, civil rights and other issues.
The Senate denied him confirmation and a spot on the court, 58-42.
Earlier in life, Bork was accused of being a partisan hatchet man for Richard Nixon.
As the third-ranking official at the Justice Department, he fired Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in the "Saturday Night Massacre" of 1973.
Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned rather than fire Cox. The next in line, William Ruckelshaus, refused to fire Cox and was himself fired.
But it was Bork's drubbing during the 1987 Senate nomination hearings made him a hero to the right and a rallying cry for younger conservatives.
The experience embittered Bork and hardened many of his positions, even as it gave him prominence as an author and popularity on the speaking circuit.
Kenneth Weinstein, head of the Washington think-tank Hudson Institute where Bork was a distinguished fellow, said in response to his passing:
"Robert Bork was a giant, a brilliant and fearless legal scholar, and a gentleman whose incredible wit and erudition made him a wonderful Hudson colleague."
Known before his nomination by Ronald Reagan as an expert on antitrust law, Bork became widely known as a conservative cultural critic in the ensuing years.