PASSINGS: Gerald Heaney

Gerald Heaney

Judge’s opinions helped desegregate schools

Gerald Heaney, 92, a retired federal judge who wrote or helped write opinions that led to the desegregation of schools in St. Louis, Omaha and Little Rock, Ark., died Tuesday in Duluth, Minn. The cause was not given.

As a labor lawyer and political figure, Heaney helped form the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota with the likes of Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy. In 1966, then-Sen. McCarthy recommended to President Johnson that he name Heaney a federal judge.

Legal scholars say the most significant case of Heaney’s career was the St. Louis schools desegregation case.


Missouri schools were segregated by law until 1972. Then Minnie Liddell, a black mother from St. Louis, went to court seeking better schools for her children.

Heaney and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals first heard the case Liddell vs. Board of Education in 1980. Heaney wrote the opinion that integrated the St. Louis schools by allowing black children to transfer to suburban schools.

The court required the state to pay suburban schools the costs of educating the children and also made the state pay their transportation costs.

Gerald William Heaney was born in 1918 in the southeastern Minnesota town of Goodhue, where his father ran a meat market. He received his law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1941, then joined the Army.

As an officer with the Second Ranger Infantry Battalion, he participated in the D-Day landing at Normandy. He was decorated with the Silver Star for extraordinary bravery and also received the Bronze Star.

Heaney, who lived in Duluth, retired from the bench in 2006, at age 88. The federal courthouse in Duluth is named for him.

Heaney and his wife, Eleanor, were married for 64 years.

-- McClatchy-Tribune News Service