Harry Blackmun

Harry A. Blackmun, ca. 1975. Location no. por 17652 p1, Negative no. 92062Harry Blackmun was born in 1908 in Illinois, but his family soon moved to Minnesota. While still a boy, Blackmun became close friends with future U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger. The two grew up together but were separated when Blackmun went off to college and law school at Harvard while Berger remained in the Twin Cities. After Blackmun graduated from Harvard Law in 1932, he worked as a law clerk for one year and subsequently joined a Minneapolis law firm. He taught at the St. Paul College of Law (now called William Mitchell) from 1935 to 1941 and then at the University of Minnesota School of Law 1945-1947. Blackmun became the resident counsel for the Mayo Clinic in 1950, a capacity in which he served until 1959 when he was appointed to the Eighth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. When a vacancy appeared on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969, President Richard Nixon moved to fill the vacancy; however, the U.S. Senate had rejected his first two appointments, and the opening remained after nearly a full year. At the urging of Chief Justice Burger, whom Nixon had just appointed, Nixon selected Blackmun. This time the Senate gave its approval, and Blackmun joined the highest court in the land. During his tenure on the bench, Blackmun penned many of the Court's opinions, including one of the most controversial: Roe v. Wade. He retired from the Court in 1994 and died five years later.


  • Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun's Supreme Court Journey, by Linda Greenhouse.
    New York: Times Books, Henry Holt and Co., 2005.
    MHS call number: Reading Room KF 8745 .B555 G74 2005.
  • "Dedication to Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the Occasion of his Twenty-Fifth Year as a Federal Judge."
    In Hamline Law Review, vol. 8, no. 1 (January 1985): pp. 1-149.
    MHS call number: K8 .A55 v.8:1.
  • God Save This Honorable Court, by Louis M. Kohlmeier.
    New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972.
    MHS call number: KF 8748 .K63.
  • "Harry A. Blackmun."
    In The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions.
    New York: Chelsea House, 1978. vol. 5, pp.1-60.
    MHS call number: KF 8744 .F75 v.5.


  • Harry A. Blackmun. Hearing, Ninety-first Congress, Second Session … April 29, 1970.
    Transcript of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary's hearing on the nomination of Blackmun for Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
    MHS call number: KF 8745.B5 U5.
  • George A. Heaisey Papers.
    This collection consists mostly of Heaisy's correspondence with a variety of judges, including some letters between him and Blackmun.
    MHS call number: P297; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks for more details (there is only one box of material).
  • Dietrich Lange Papers.
    Lange was a Minnesota author, educator, and naturalist born in Germany. His dealings with Blackmun were not extensive, but one item of interest in his papers is a collection of notes taken by Lange about a visit to Spring Lake he made with Blackmun.
    MHS call number: P1499; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks for a detailed list of boxes (there are 14 boxes, but only box 13 contains materials that deal with Blackmun).
  • George E. MacKinnon Papers.
    MacKinnon served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, among many other posts, and was generally quite prominent in Minnesota. The letters in his papers demonstrate his relationship with many prominent officials, Blackmun among them.
    MHS call number: See the green Manuscripts Alpha Notebooks—filed alphabetically under MacKinnon, George E.—for a detailed list of boxes (there are 178 boxes of material, but not all material deals directly with Blackmun; see especially boxes 172-178 and the index), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
  • Newspapers that may be useful for this topic:
    • Minneapolis Star
    • Minneapolis Tribune
    • Rochester Post-Bulletin
    • St. Paul Pioneer Press
    • St. Paul Dispatch
    • Indexes for articles published in the Twin Cities daily newspapers start in 1967 for St. Paul papers and in 1970 for Minneapolis papers, and are located in the Hubbs Microfilm Room.
  • Visual Resources Database subjects that may be useful for this topic:
  • Check the library catalog for other materials.