- Blackmun, Harry Andrew
▪ 2000U.S. Supreme Court justice (b. Nov. 12, 1908, Nashville, Ill.—d. March 4, 1999, Arlington, Va.), became one of the tribunal's most controversial justices during his tenure (1970–94) and was best identified as the author of the Roe v. Wade (1973) decision, which established a woman's right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Blackmun, who grew up in St. Paul, Minn., graduated (1932) from Harvard Law School. After a brief clerkship, he joined a Minneapolis, Minn., law firm in 1934 and a year later began teaching at St. Paul College of Law, where he remained until 1941. In 1950 he was named resident counsel for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., a position he held until 1959, when Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. In 1970 Pres. Richard M. Nixon was searching for a conservative “law and order” judge to fill a Supreme Court vacancy created by the resignation of Abe Fortas. With two previous candidates already rejected by the Senate, Nixon selected Blackmun. Relatively unknown and noncontroversial, he was unanimously confirmed and on June 9, 1970, took his seat. He quickly became one of the most visible and outspoken justices. In the furor that ensued after the court's decision on Roe v. Wade, Blackmun received thousands of hate letters and was placed under federal protection. A champion of the poor and oppressed, he became increasingly liberal, often finding himself in the court's minority on civil rights cases. He supported affirmative action in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), and in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) defended gay rights, arguing in the dissent that the right to privacy extended to homosexual behaviour. Shortly before his retirement, Blackmun expressed his opposition to the death penalty, criticizing the random and arbitrary manner in which it was applied.
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