Harry A. Blackmun

Media Items
Personal Information
Thursday, November 12, 1908
Thursday, March 4, 1999
Childhood Location 
Childhood Surroundings 
Corwin Blackmun
Father's Occupation 
Theo Reuter
Family Status 
Associate Justice
Nominated By 
Commissioned on 
Thursday, May 14, 1970
Sworn In 
Tuesday, June 9, 1970
Left Office 
Wednesday, August 3, 1994
Reason For Leaving 
Length of Service 
24 years, 1 month, 24 days
Harry A. Blackmun
Everett Raymond Kinstler, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Harry Blackmun was born in southern Illinois and raised in Minnesota. One of his earliest friends from his days in grade school was Warren Burger; they would later serve together on the nation's highest court.

Blackmun attended Harvard College and graduated with a degree in mathematics. He completed his law degree at Harvard and then clerked for a federal appeals court judge in Minneapolis. He then entered private legal practice until President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Blackmun to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Blackmun was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Nixon following the Senate's rejection of two other Nixon nominees.

Early on, Blackmun was frequently paired with conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger. Within a short time, however, Blackmun emerged as a sympathetic liberal. Perhaps his most famous (or infamous) opinion recognized a constitutional right to abortion. The result was a tirade of abuse on Blackmun personally and on the Court he served.

In 1994, after nearly 24 years of service, Blackmun announced his decision to retire. His sentimentalism endeared him to liberals, though Blackmun insisted he did not change his views. At his retirement news conference, Blackmun reflected on his first day as a Justice. His rhetorical question posed on his first day of service -- "What am I doing here?" -- offers a puzzling clue to the core of his jurisprudence.

Clerk Law Schoolsort icon Terms Clerked
David W. Ogden Harvard (1981) 1982
David A. Sklansky Harvard (1984) 1985
Chai Rachel Feldblum Harvard (1985) 1986
Danny Ertel Harvard (1986) 1987
Lynn E. Blais Harvard (1988) 1990
Alan Jenkins Harvard (1989) 1990
Molly McUsic Harvard (1989) 1991
Andrew H. Schapiro Harvard (1990) 1992
Radhika Rao Harvard (1990) 1992
Sherry Colb Harvard (1991) 1992
Randall P. Bezanson Iowa (1971) 1972
Robert E. Gooding Jr. Michigan (1969) 1970
Ellen E. Deason Michigan (1985) 1986
Paul H. Schwartz North Carolina (1992) 1994
Vicki Been NYU (1983) 1984

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Harry A. Blackmun. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 28 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/justices/harry_a_blackmun?page=2&order=field_education_value&sort=asc>.
Harry A. Blackmun, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/justices/harry_a_blackmun?page=2&order=field_education_value&sort=asc (last visited August 28, 2015).
"Harry A. Blackmun," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 28, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/justices/harry_a_blackmun?page=2&order=field_education_value&sort=asc.