WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- President Bush said Sunday the "nation is saddened today" by the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
The president said he would nominate a successor in a "timely manner."
Rehnquist died Saturday after a long struggle with thyroid cancer.
His death gives Bush the rare chance to name two people to the high court. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has announced she is stepping down, and the president has nominated U.S. Circuit Judge John Roberts to take her place.
"He was extremely well respected for his powerful intellect," Bush said. "He was respected for his deep commitment to the rule of law and his profound devotion to duty. He provided superb leadership for the federal court system, improving the delivery of justice for the American people, and earning the admiration of his colleagues throughout the judiciary."
The president also struck a personal note.
"Even during a period of illness, Chief Justice Rehnquist stayed on the job to complete the work of his final Supreme Court term," Bush said. "I was honored and I was deeply touched when he came to the Capitol for the swearing-in last January. He was a man of character and dedication. His departure represents a great loss for the Court and for our country."
Bush also extended sympathy to Rehnquist's grown children and all the chief justice's family members.
Meanwhile messages poured in from politicians and groups praising Rehnquist's character and many agreeing with his conservative philosophy.