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Glenn E. Kelley, Associate Justice 1981-1990

Glenn E. Kelley

Portrait of Glenn E. Kelley



Justice Kelly was a strict constructionist who served on the Minnesota Supreme Court from 1981-1990.


Glenn Eugene Kelley was born April 25, 1921 in St. Edward, Nebraska. Both of his parents were educators, his father superintendent of schools, and later an English professor, and his mother a schoolteacher. The family moved from Nebraska to Aberdeen, South Dakota around 1936. Kelley completed high school in Aberdeen and attended Northern State College, graduating in 1943 with Bachelors in Science. He worked on the school paper, The Exponent, on the editorial board as well as a reporter.

He then joined the Army AirCorps and became a navigator-bombadier on planes flying out of England. He was involved in a number of missions and in one instance his plane crashed into the English Channel, but the crew only had minor injuries. After the war ended, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with oak leaf clusters.

Upon leaving the army in 1945, he enrolled at the University of Michigan Law School. He married his wife Margaret, whom he had met in high school, in 1946 and completed his law degree in 1948. His first job out of law school was with a law firm in Austin, Minnesota. He spent the next 22 years practicing law with the firm of Alderson, Catherwood, Kelley and Ondov. He worked mainly with insurance defense, railroad defense and the Hormel Company.

In 1969, Kelley was appointed to the bench of the Third Judicial District. The judge's chambers were in Winona, so the family moved to Winona, Minnesota, which he says is the best thing that ever happened to him. For a part of his time on the district court, he was the Chief Judge of the Third Judicial District. In that capacity, he served on a temporary Supreme Court for an extraordinary case that involved the Chief Justice who had to recuse himself and the entire court from the case. He served as a district court judge for 12 years before he was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court by Governor Al Quie in December 1981, to replace Justice Robert Sheran.

While on the court, Kelley participated in the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission and worked with the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board. He served on the court until 1990 when he retired after a cancer diagnosis. He died of lung cancer on April 11, 1992.

Justice Kelley and his wife had three children, Anne, David, and Glenn.

You may read more about the work and life of Justice Kelley in the resources provided in this guide and in the book, Testimony: Remembering Minnesota's Supreme Court Justices, which is a source of this brief biography.

Glenn E. Kelley Signature from the Roll of Attorneys

Image Credits: Portrait of Justice Kelly from the Minnesota Supreme Court; Glenn E. Kelley's signature in the Roll of Attorneys, Supreme Court, State of Minnesota, 1858-1970, p. 286. Available online at:

Additional Resources