Family speaks of being proud of brother, son

Rosemary Roberts walks with her husband, John Roberts Sr., followed by Peggy Roberts, one of their daughters. Flooded with reporters' queries, they called a news conference about Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.
Rosemary Roberts walks with her husband, John Roberts Sr., followed by Peggy Roberts, one of their daughters. Flooded with reporters' queries, they called a news conference about Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. (Sun photo by Kim Hairston)
The frenzy surrounding the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court paid a short visit to a well-trimmed golf course suburb off Route 40 in Ellicott City yesterday, where the nominee's parents and two sisters crowded around an arsenal of microphones to say how proud they all are.

Flooded by telephone calls and several visits from reporters the past two days, Roberts' family members said they coordinated the news conference with the White House in hopes of sating the media's hunger for information and getting on with their lives.

"We are a very close-knit family and take pride in the accomplishments of all our family members," said Peggy Roberts, 47, the nominee's younger sister. "However, this is currently number one on the list."

John Roberts, 50, grew up in Indiana and has spent most of his professional life in and around Washington. But his parents and two of his three sisters live in the Baltimore area, a result of his father's long career with Bethlehem Steel Corp.

The elder Roberts moved his family to Baltimore in the early 1980s to become plant manager at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point operation, and two of his daughters still live in the area. According to directory listings, Peggy Roberts lives in Timonium, and her younger sister, Barbara Burke, lives in Hampstead.

Roberts' parents moved away shortly after his father, now 77, retired from Bethlehem Steel in 1985. They followed another steel industry job to Warren, Ohio, and lived briefly near Columbia, S.C., but recently moved to Ellicott City to be closer to their children, a family friend said. An older daughter, Kathy, lives in northwestern Indiana, close to another Bethlehem Steel plant where her father worked.

'Extremely proud'

Yesterday Roberts' parents stood on their front lawn, facing a bank of nine television cameras and craning to hear over the groan of satellite trucks parked nearby, and allowed their daughter Peggy to speak on their behalf, as Barbara, 43, stood nearby.

"My parents are extremely proud of their son and are thrilled with this moment," Peggy said, reading from a typed statement that was heavily edited in blue ink.

"John is a wonderful, wonderful man, and I am very proud to call him my brother," she added.

"We are honored to share John with the nation."

The reporters started shouting questions as soon as she finished, but most were answered with only a smile and a request to leave the family out of the nomination's political debate.

"How Catholic would you characterize your family?" one reporter asked "And would your brother preach that from the bench?"

"This is about John today, not us," Peggy responded.

"Do you think that he should declare his intentions about Roe v. Wade?" another reported asked, luring the nominee's mother, Rosemary, 76, to the microphones.

"Our opinion is not relevant," she said. "We're just very proud of our son and proud to share John with the nation."

The family members quickly ended the session, thanking the journalists as they navigated the tangle of electrical cables and outstretched notepads that blocked the route to their front door.

'Very private'

"They're very private," said H.P. Goldfield, a former colleague of John Roberts' and his father's, when told about the event. "But also very proud."

The community adjacent to Turf Valley Country Club was briefly turned upside down by the event, which lasted 15 minutes but filled the streets with enough reporters and cameras to cover a small war. Neighbors described Roberts' parents as a sweet couple who often take walks through the neighborhood but said they were not aware of their celebrity relative until the press corps started showing up about lunchtime.

"We were all surprised, I think, but it's exciting," said neighbor Peggy Duran, watching the spectacle as she leaned on a car three doors down.

"I've never asked them about politics or anything like that," said neighbor Dolores Parrish, shortly after finishing an interview with a television reporter. "Maybe I should have. And I should have done my hair."