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Justice Ginsburg's last Buffalo stop: The federal courthouse, of course

As she gazed at the floor to ceiling stained glass, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg chose "spectacular" to describe the view in front of her.

It was her first visit to the Robert H. Jackson U.S. Courthouse in Buffalo and the judges who helped build it were anxious to show her around.

For Ginsburg, it was the last stop on a two-day tour of Western New York that drew packed, enthusiastic crowds wherever she went.

[Related: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, unbowed by cancer, brings Buffalo audiences to their feet]

The courthouse on Tuesday was no different.

"I can't believe she's here," one staffer said.

"It was nothing short of awesome," another said.

She arrived about 10:30 a.m. and, with about a dozen federal judges in tow, toured the 8-year-old courthouse, stopping along the way for a photo or a quick word.

"Wow," said one courthouse lawyer as she watched Ginsburg make her way through the building.

Later, she met privately with the judges and, later still, with the courthouse staff.

Her visit Tuesday was not part of her public schedule and she was able to arrive and leave without the fanfare that accompanied most of her tour. On Monday night, she spoke to a sold-out crowd at Kleinhans Music Hall and, earlier in the day, received an honorary degree from the University at Buffalo.

"She's a true icon," said Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr. "This is a day people will remember for the rest of their lives."

Appointed by then President Bill Clinton, Ginsburg joined the nation's highest court in 1993 and became only the second woman to serve on it. The first was Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Over the years, her public profile grew and helped to solidify her legacy as a pioneer among women involved in the law.

At Harvard University, she was one of nine women in a law school class of 500 and later, when O'Connor retired, she was the only female on the high court.

"She talked a lot about the role of women and how it's changed," Geraci said of her appearance Tuesday.

One of the stories she told was of her search for a job, a search marred by discrimination. She quickly discovered the biggest roadblock in her way was not her gender or religion – she's Jewish – but her role as a mother.

"That was the biggest obstacle facing her," Geraci said. "Law firms back then didn't think she could devote the time and energy to being a good lawyer."

Known for her sometimes fiery opinions, Ginsburg at some point acquired the pop culture nickname "Notorious RBG," a reference to the rapper, "the Notorious B.I.G." That, in turn, led to "Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg," a New York Times bestseller, and later a critically acclaimed documentary.

Even now, you can buy Notorious RBG T-shirts and coffee cups online.

At several stops along her tour, Ginsburg made a point of mentioning the late Wayne D. Wisbaum, an attorney and former Cornell University classmate. It was Wisbaum, former president and board chair of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Kleinhans Music Hall Management, who first asked her to come to Buffalo.

She made the trip despite recently undergoing radiation treatment for a pancreatic tumor.

Like everyone else who crossed paths with Ginsburg, Geraci remarked on her graciousness and sense of humor.

He also noticed that people seemed genuinely excited about meeting her.

"It's really an historic day for the courthouse," he said.

Before leaving Buffalo, the judges presented Ginsburg with a series of gifts, including a Susan B. Anthony brooch with an engraved message: "Failure is impossible."

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, unbowed by cancer, brings audiences to their feet

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