Ralph Karl Winter Jr. was born on July 30, 1935, in Waterbury, Conn. His father worked in insurance, and his mother, Muriel (Pullin) Winter, was a homemaker.
He attended the nearby Taft School, a boarding school, as a day student, then went to Yale, just 20 miles away, graduating in 1957. He enrolled immediately in Yale Law School, where he met his future wife, Kathryn Higgins, a New Haven native who worked in the school’s library. She died in 2012.
In addition to his son, he is survived by a granddaughter.
After graduating from law school in 1960, Judge Winter held a series of prestigious clerkships, first for Judge Caleb M. Wright of the U.S. District Court for Delaware and then for Thurgood Marshall, at the time a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, covering New York, Connecticut and Vermont.
Although Judge Winter, a libertarian-leaning conservative, differed philosophically from Marshall, the two became close friends. When Judge Winter joined the Second Circuit himself in 1982, nominated by President Ronald Reagan, Marshall, by then a Supreme Court justice, administered the oath of office. In 1993, Judge Winter gave a eulogy at Justice Marshall’s funeral.
Judge Winter’s judicial chambers became a reliable pipeline to Supreme Court clerkships, academic posts and high-level government jobs. Among his best-known clerks were Steven G. Calabresi, a founder of the Federalist Society; Paul G. Mahoney, a former dean of the University of Virginia School of Law; Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host; and George T. Conway III, the Republican lawyer and husband of the former Trump White House aide Kellyanne Conway.