At ceremonies set for Saturday, October 6, the federal courthouse in Duluth, Minnesota will be officially re-named the Gerald W. Heaney Federal Building and United States Courthouse and Customhouse--in honor of Gerald W. Heaney, retired judge, Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Former Vice President Walter Mondale, Congressman James Oberstar, Senator Amy Klobuchar and UMD Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin will be among the speakers at the 10:30 a.m. ceremonies.
A decorated World War II veteran, Gerald Heaney graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1941 and began his career in private practice. From the beginning, he focused his lifelong work to championing equal justice and rights for vulnerable citizens--including children, workers, racial minorities and the poor. He practiced law in private practice in Duluth from 1946 to 1966, and he continues to live in Duluth.
In 1966 he was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit by President Lyndon B. Johnson. During his distinguished career on the bench, which spanned 40 years, he heard more than 3,000 cases. He wrote opinions affirming equal rights for women and criticizing the death penalty. He played an instrumental role in prohibiting discrimination. He wrote and co-wrote decisions to desegregate schools in Little Rock, Kansas City, Omaha and St Louis.
In 2004 he co-authored a book (with Dr. Susan Uchitelle) about his nearly 20-year supervision of the St Louis, Missouri public schools program, where he helped design a busing program that encouraged tens of thousands of inner city kids to attend schools in the suburbs, and, at the same time, channeled more money into city schools to improve the education there. The book, titled "Unending Struggle: The Long Road to an Equal Education in St Louis", carefully outlined the history of the desegregation process of the St Louis Public School System providing the diversity of voices largely missing from the national debate on how to deliver equal education to African American children.
Although not as well known, Gerald Heaney was a key part of the generation that drove Minnesotans into national politics - Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale, Orville Freeman and James Oberstar. For three generations he has organized and strategized behind the scenes in the DFL party.
Judge Heaney was a powerful voice in the establishment of UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) and the Medical School at UMD. In 2001 he was the UMD commencement speaker and received an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree for Public Service. He served on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents from 1964 to 1965.
UMD Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin said, "Judge Heaney is an outstanding civic and judicial leader, both in our region and our nation. He is a true friend to the university, and continues to be a strong and effective advocate for higher education. We are so very proud to share in this richly deserved honor for him."
Judge Heaney took senior status from the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1988, while continuing to maintain 80% of a full caseload. He retired from the Court on August 31, 2006.