Harry A. Blackmun, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1970-1994)

explore-notable-supreme-court-blackmun

Nominated to the Supreme Court after President Richard M. Nixon's first two choices were rejected by the Senate, Justice Harry Blackmun reportedly said that being picked third kept him humble. He was recommended to the president by Chief Justice Warren Burger, a childhood friend, after serving on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for 11 years. Prior to that, his career had included nine years as resident counsel for the Mayo Clinic, reflecting his early interest in medicine. 

Blackmun is best known as the author of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which extended the right of privacy in reproductive matters, prohibiting many restrictions on abortion. Later in his career, an increasingly conservative court often left Blackmun in the minority. For example, he was the sole dissenter in a 1993 ruling that the U.S. could intercept Haitian refugees and forcibly return them to their country without a hearing. 

By the time he retired in August 1994, Blackmun was viewed as the most liberal member of the Supreme Court. In 1997, he played Justice Joseph Story in the film Amistad, becoming the first Supreme Court justice to appear in a motion picture. 

Blackmun died at age 90 on March 4, 1999, due to complications from hip replacement surgery. Along with his wife, he is buried in Section 5, Grave 40-4.