A newspaper for ECU faculty and staff
Pieces of Eight


Yarbrough Pens Biography

By Erica Plouffe Lazure

A new book by Tinsley Yarbrough, ECU professor emeritus of political science, examines the complicated and compelling role of Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun.


Yarbrough’s book, “Harry A. Blackmun: The Outsider Justice” (Oxford University Press, 2008) traces the ascent of the Nixon-appointed justice from his humble Midwestern roots and – in spite of his success as a Minneapolis lawyer and judge – examines the root of Blackmun’s longtime self-opinion that he was an outsider. It was through this “outsider” lens that Blackmun weighed many controversial issues during his time on the bench, from archaic homosexual laws to death row inmates and women’s issues of choice through the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

Through numerous interviews with Blackmun’s law clerks and extensive archival research, Yarbrough asserts that Blackmun had always identified himself with the marginalized members of society, in spite of his 1970 appointment by President Richard Nixon who believed he’d contribute to the increasingly conservative views of Justice William Burger’s court. Blackmun retired from the Supreme Court in 1994, and died in 1999.

Yarbrough is the author of ten books, including “David Hackett Souter: Traditional Republican on the Rehnquist Court,” “The Rehnquist Court and the Constitution,” and “Judge Frank Johnson and Human Rights in Alabama,” for which he won an ABA Silver Gavel Award.


This page originally appeared in the Feb. 29, 2008 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at