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The John G. Heyburn Initiative

The Heyburn Initiative is a partnership between UK Libraries and College of Law. The Special Collections Research Center is creating a non-partisan archival collection devoted to the preservation and study of US Judicial history with a particular focus on Kentuckians’ contributions to American legal discourse.  There are several collections included in the Initiative along with the papers of John G. Heyburn. Over the course of the next three years the Initiative will grow to include oral histories and additional judiciary collections.

     INQUIRIES:  Please contact the Heyburn Archivist, Anu Kasarabada at anu.k@uky.edu or 859-257-4631


                  Judge John G. Heyburn II

  • Appointed to United States District Court in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush at the recommendation of Senator Mitch McConnell
  • Chief Judge of the Western District of Kentucky from 2001 to 2008
  • Appointed to Budget Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States by Chief Justice Rehnquist in 1994; served as Chair from 1997 to 2004
  • Appointed Chair of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation by Chief Justice Roberts in 2007 Judge Heyburn’s Legacy

The Honorable John G. Heyburn II


Judge Heyburn presided over 7,645 cases in his 23 years on the bench including some of the most controversial that faced the courts: recognition of same sex marriages, restrictions on access to abortion, racial desegregation of our schools, and the scope of First Amendment’s guarantees. His opinions were known for his indefatigable sense of fairness, respect for litigants, and commitment to clear, logical, and thoughtful rulings. For example, in holding that Kentucky had intentionally discriminated against same-sex couples he took the unusual step of addressing those with deeply held religious beliefs who might have difficulty with his opinion while yet firmly explaining no tradition or firmly held belief can be the rationale to deny equal protection to another. Many credited his opinion for returning dignity to Americans who had felt marginalized by their country without demonizing those with strongly held religious beliefs. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on his case (consolidated with three others) the day before his death and upheld his opinion in the summer of 2015.

Collections in the Heyburn Initiative:

  1. John G. Heyburn papers
  2. Green Wix Unthank – 9th Eastern District Judge appointed by Carter
  3. Mac Swinford papers – 3rd Eastern District Judge (and 5th Western) appointed by FDR
  4. Charles Dawson – 3rd Western District Judge appointed by Coolidge
  5. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Stanley Reed papers
  6. Chief Justice Fred Vinson papers and audio collections

HOURS for October 20, 2017

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