Blackmun Obit NPR's Nina Totenberg reflects on the life of retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, best known for authoring the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion. The court's action set off a bitter national debate, and Blackmun received death threats and thousands of piece of "hate mail." Blackmun evolved from a conservative when he was nominated in 1970 to one of the most liberal members of the court when he retired in 1994. He died this morning at a Virginia hospital. Harry Blackmun was 90 years old.