Harry Blackmun was named to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Nixon in 1970. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Blackmun began his career in a Minneapolis law firm in 1932. Later he taught at St. Paul College of Law and at the University of Minnesota Law School. In 1959 he was appointed judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Functioning as a centrist on the court, Blackmun took generally conservative stands on criminal law and occasionally on death-penalty cases; he held in 1976 that capital punishment was constitutional but in 1987 dissented when the Court rejected a racial challenge to the death penalty. Blackmun's positions on affirmative action matters were liberal. He wrote the historic Roe vs. Wade decision (1973), which held that state laws prohibiting abortion were illegal.
Last Updated: 9/3/09