Minnesota State Law Library
Born in Fairfield, Connecticut, March 13, 1813, Bradley B. Meeker was one of eight children born to Joseph and Rhoda (Nichols) Meeker. Despite being descendants of Robert Meeker, the 1650 founder of the city of Fairfield, his family was poor and unable to afford formal education for their children. The young Meeker was fortunate, however, to attract the attention of Connecticut Governor, Gideon Tomlinson. Under Governor Tomlinson’s patronage, Meeker was able to attend Weston Academy and Yale College, from which he graduated in 1802.
After leaving Yale, Meeker moved to Richmond, Kentucky, where he taught school to support himself while he studied law. He was admitted to practice in 1843, and practiced law in Richmond until 1845, when he moved to Flemingsburg, Kentucky. There he continued to practice law and became involved in politics, participating in a convention to revise the state’s constitution.
Having made a name for himself in law and politics, Meeker was an obvious choice for appointment to the newly established Supreme Court for territory of Minnesota. President Zachary Taylor appointed Meeker Associate Justice of the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court on June 1, 1849, but Meeker was not able to fill the position until the Court’s second term in 1851. He served on the Court until July 1853, when President Franklin Pierce replaced all of the justices with his own political appointments. Meeker authored seven opinions for the Court and is known as the least controversial of the three justices, which included Chief Justice Aaron Goodrich and Associate Justice David Cooper.
After leaving the Court, Meeker remained active in Minnesota politics serving in the territorial legislature, as a member of the Minnesota Constitutional Convention, and as one the first regents of the University Minnesota. He was also a charter member of the Minnesota Historical Society and, in 1856, received the honor of having a Minnesota county named in his honor. Justice Meeker died on February 20, 1873, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, while en route to the east coast.
You may read more about the life and work of Justice Meeker in the book, Testimony: Remembering Minnesota's Supreme Court Justices, which is the source of this biography.