Lost last week in the Madison madness and in the St. Paul serenade of lawmakers by hundreds of Northland citizen lobbyists was news of yet another deserving honor for a “legend” and a “larger-than-life hero,” as Duluth’s Judge Gerald W. Heaney was heralded.
Judge Heaney received, posthumously, the Sam Solon Lifetime Legislative Award, given annually in memory of another Northland icon, Sen. Sam Solon. Solon’s widow, Yvonne Prettner Solon, now lieutenant governor of Minnesota, presented the award at the breakfast reception that capped the annual, two-day Duluth & St. Louis County at the Capitol lobbying event.
“When Judge Heaney passed this summer, we lost a legend. He was always one of us,” Prettner Solon said. “With a massive budget deficit and hard decisions before us, we need that same kind of courage that Judge Heaney lived throughout his life.”
Judge Heaney died in June. He was 92.
Heaney was a hero of World War II, participating in the D-Day landing at Normandy. He received the Silver Star for bravery and the Bronze Star, which is awarded for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service. Heaney practiced labor law in Duluth for 20 years and helped form the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, his name becoming conjoined in history with political giants such as Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy and Orville Freeman.
He was appointed to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1966. In 40 years, he wrote more than 3,000 legal opinions, some of them championing justice for vulnerable citizens while others affirmed equal rights for women. He wrote or helped write opinions that led to the desegregation of schools in Little Rock, Ark., Omaha, Neb., and St. Louis. Also in St. Louis, he helped design a busing program that encouraged tens of thousands of inner-city children to attend schools in suburbs while channeling money into inner-city schools to improve education for all.
— Duluth News Tribune