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Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun's Supreme Court Journey
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Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun's Supreme Court Journey

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,076 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
"A fascinating book. In clear and forceful prose, Becoming Justice Blackmun tells a judicial Horatio Alger story and a tale of a remarkable transformation . . . A page-turner."--The New York Times Book Review
In this acclaimed biography, Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times draws back the curtain on America's most private branch of government, the Supreme Court. Greenhous
Paperback, 268 pages
Published April 4th 2006 by St. Martins Press-3pl (first published May 2nd 2005)
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May 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
If you've never heard of Harry Blackmun, well, you should have. As I write this, President Obama's visit to Notre Dame is on the front pages of America's major newspapers. There was a controversy because Notre Dame is a Catholic college and President Obama is not an abortion hardliner. This controversy springs from the most polarizing case in Supreme Court history: Roe v. Wade. Written by Justice Blackmun.

Linda Greenhouse's book traces the "journey" of Blackmun by using his private papers. In p
Jan 13, 2010 rated it liked it
More history than biography, written almost entirely on the basis of Blackmun's recently unsealed papers (he kept everything). It's a bit of a weird book because of that. The opening biographical sketches getting Blackmun to his Scotus appointment are very cursory, as these things go, and the real meat of the book is the themed sections on abortion and Blackmun's authorship of Roe, then the death penalty through Greg v. Ga. and beyond, and to women's rights (which were, by the way, completely un ...more
Bill Sleeman
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: supremes
A very good history of one man's contributions. The role that "Roe" ended up playing in his life was unexpected and unfortunate because, as author Linda Greenhouse makes plain, his contributions to constitutional law and scholarship were immense. Oftentimes it is easy to forget that these are just men and women that we have asked to perform a thankless task – Greenhouse makes plain that at least Justice Blackmun struggled daily with what it meant to be on the Court and to shape the rights of so ...more
Sep 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political
This is a concise biography of Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. Because it is concise it focuses on a small number of his most famous decisions plus describing briefly how the Supreme Court functions and the relations between the judges. It doesn't spend any time describing a theory of law, but shows on specific concrete cases what he was thinking.

What was most interesting to me was seeing how a conservative judge of just a couple decades ago could take positions that would place him on the
Dec 05, 2015 rated it liked it
An interesting account of the Justice most known for his authorship of the Roe v. Wade majority opinion. A defender of women's rights to the end, this book does a decent job of telling the tale of a complex man from Minnesota who left an indelible mark on the history and course of this nation.
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Every time I read it, I take something different out of it. A masterpiece
Cherif Jazra
May 28, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a fine book about the life of justice Blacknum, a person I have grown to really like in reading this book. A large focus of the focus is in the intimate relationship he had with chief justice Burger, a close childhood friend who was his strongest ally at bringing him to the Supreme Court just a couple years before he was faced with Roe v. Wade. The tone of the book is personal as the author Linda greenhouse draws from his personal papers donated tot library of congress in 2003. You find ...more
Chris Miller
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This short biography was well-sorted-out. It drew a clear arc from Justice Blackmun's beginnings at the Mayo Clinic through the surprise of his confirmation as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to the eloquent and motivated jurist he became. Because Linda Greenhouse limited her sources to the papers maintained by Justice Blackmun, many details were omitted and a truly objective portrayal of his impact became impossible. I'm glad I took the time to read it, especially having just finished ...more
Dolina Millar
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tcpl
This is an excellent biography of Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of the Roe v. Wade decision. Looking particularly at cases involving abortion, women's rights, and the death penalty, the author traces Blackmun's judicial thinking and his evolution to more liberal views on these subjects. It also deals with Blackmun's estrangement from his boyhood friend Chief Justice Warren Burger as they increasingly part ways in their thinking. Blackmun's notes to himself and to other justice ...more
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good book. Interesting insider information about the Supreme Court. Was also interesting to learn more about Justice Blackmun and how his views changed or evolved while he was on the Court. It was sad, though, to learn of the dissolution of his childhood friendship with Justice Burger because of their differences of opinions while on the Court.
Madison Thornton
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
An excellent judicial biography. Tracks the personal and professional evolutions of one of the great Justices of the latter half of the 20th century. The background information on Roe v. Wade was fascinating, and one walks away from the whole experience lamenting the absence of a Justice Blackmun in America today.
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for anyone interested in the Court.
Emily Klein
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book about an important and compelling legal scholar.
Robin Miller
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Yeein Lee
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
about time
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
This biography of a Supreme Court justice grabs most of its information from Blackmun's own papers and diary. It presents the story of a justice who moves from the right side of the political spectrum to the left during his time on the bench. It also tells the tale of two men whose friendship draws to a close as this transformation takes place.

Blackmun grew up in Minnesota and went to school with another Supreme Court justice, Warren Berger. The two were, thus, long-time friends when they ended
Jan 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, law
Linda Greenhouse is a distinguished Supreme Court reporter for the NY Times, a fact which shows in her detailed yet easy-to-read and accessible account of Harry Blackmun's tenure on the Supreme Court. This biography of Justice Blackmun's professional career -- with a focus on abortion (Blackmun authored Roe v. Wade), the death penalty, sex discrimination, and his friendship with Chief Justice Warren Burger -- is a must-read for anybody with even a passing interest in either the Supreme Court as ...more
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For historians Blackmum must be an angel, as he kept all his papers and on his death turned them over to the Library of Congress. He also sat for 38 hours of videotaped interviews with his former clerk Harold Hongju Keh now Dean of the Yale Law School. Greenhouse was provided early access by Blackmum’s daughter to write this biography. Greenhouse is a Pulitzer Prize winning Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times. The book provides a fascinating story told in clear and forceful prose telli ...more
Doug Mitchell
This is a must-read for anyone interested in the Court. Somehow Greenhouse uses the primary source material of Blackmun's personal papers to put together an extremely readable book that adds significantly to the scholarship around the writer of Roe vs Wade.
Nov 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Excellent biography of an excellent Supreme Court Justice!

It is quite obvious that author Linda Greenhouse benefited greatly from Harry Blackmun's obsessive note-taking, journaling, and consistent chronicling of his life from a very early age. Greenhouse should be credited for relying heavily on these records in the composition of this biography as they offer the most accurate depiction one could hope for in a book written after the fact. One of the factors I appreciated most is how "the" v
Jan 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scotus
Justice Blackmun had a long and distinguished career on the bench, and for a reluctant appointee he took the job on with industriousness that typified his personality. Owing to the fact that he took copious notes and kept them all (a one-man discovery treasure trove!), the author had a first hand account of what he was thinking when he analyzed cases as well as his interaction with his fellow Justices on and off the bench. If you are familiar the the Court and it's landmark rulings, you know Jus ...more
Apr 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
It might sound kind of odd, but I didn't really expect myself to get through this one. I learned about it through a daily e-mail newsletter, which provides a small excerpt of a nonfiction book each day for a week, to allow readers to get exposed to books that they might like to read. I signed up because I have a problem with finding nonfiction that I like, and this happened to be the first of the e-mails I received. I guess the newsletter was successful, because once I began this book, I kept re ...more
Feb 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Supreme Court, American history or political buffs
Shelves: 1-kindle
Justice Harry Blackmun was appointed to the US Supreme Court by President Nixon in 1970. This biography is based on Justice Blackmun's own personal notes, letters, and documents which were released 5 years after his death in 1999. It is the defenitive biography of one of the more influential Associate Justices in modern history.

A major thread in the book involves Blackmun's relationship and interactions with other Justices, with particular emphasis on his relationship with Chief Justice Warren B
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Justice Blackmun is known for writing the majority opinion in Row v. Wade. The book goes into depth regarding that case and other abortion cases. However, it also explores Justice Blackmun's entire legal career. Death penalty cases came up a lot during his time on the bench. The book is not a personal biography, but rather a judicial biography of the man. Along the way you learn details regarding other Justices and cases during the 60s, 70s, 80s, and early 90s. I found the book very educational ...more
Jul 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Ever since I told my aunt, who got her JD in '04, that I plan to go to law school, she's started giving me books about the Supreme Court after she finishes with them. "You're interested in this," she'll say, and it is not a question. "Becoming Justice Blackmun" was genuinely fascinating. Written by a woman who's been covering the Supreme Court for the New York Times for something like 20 years, she almost exclusively used Blackmun's copious archives of personal correspondence and dictated biogra ...more
Feb 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
An excellent overview of Blackmun's tenure on the Supreme Court. This book is not a full-fledged biography, and focuses mainly on several strands of Blackmun's life, including his involvement in Roe v. Wade, his friendship with Warren Burger, and the death penalty. Since many of the issues on which Blackmun wrote decisions still come before the Supreme Court, the book is timely as well as historical. I especially enjoyed Greenhouse's tracing of how Blackmun came to see himself as an advocate for ...more
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After seeing the excellent Minnesota History Theatre production of "Courting Harry" earlier this month, I was determined to finish reading this book. I'm glad I continued reading.
The author, a New York Times reporter, who has covered the Supreme Court since 1978, was given access by Blackmun's family to his personal and official papers left to the Library of Congress, two months before the Library opened the collection to the public. The book is largely based on that collection.
Greenhouse admit
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
The gynecologist in my pro-choice book club brought the author, Linda Greenhouse, to our book club. It was amazing! The woman is a living institution. The family sought her out to write this extremely well-researched, thorough, and yet entirely enjoyable book about Justice Blackmun.
I read _The Brethren_ a long time ago but a lot of the information here dovetails with that history of the SCOTUS. For example, Burger was not a great manager/steward of the Court, nor was he well liked. But it was i
Feb 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
This biography of Justic Harold Blackmun was compiled largely from journals and notes taken by the subject starting from when he was a boy. In addition, surviving family members contributed.

Because of the detailed journal Blackmun kept during his youth a great deal of information is included from this time frame.

It focuses largely on the Roe v. Wade decision for which he wrote the majority opinion although also discusses a number of other cases. His lifelong friendship and its eventually decline
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
My key takeaways were that Blackmun was perhaps the world's most cute and adorable old man ever and that he was fundamentally decent while also being thin-skinned, features that led directly to his becoming an improbable women's rights hero. Buffeted by a backlash against Roe he never seemed to fully understand in either its substance or its personal vitriol towards him (it was a 7-2 decision, after all), he increasingly dug in and, in so doing, more directly embraced its true import: moving tow ...more
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