Minnesota State Law Library
Born July 6, 1898, in St. Cloud, Minnesota, William P. Murphy graduated from Cathedral High School (St. Cloud) in 1915. Murphy attended St. Thomas College (now the University of St. Thomas) and went on to earn a law degree from St. Paul College of Law (now Mitchell Hamline School of Law).
In 1922, Murphy returned to St. Cloud, where he practiced law until he was appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney in 1939. During World War II, Murphy prosecuted criminal cases for the Office of Price Administration, the office responsible for setting prices on commodities and supplies rationed during the war, such as tires, gas, sugar, and meat. He also prosecuted organized crime cases, including a 1943 investigation following the seizure of $250,000 in black-market liquor from "boxing bootlegger" Sam Taran. Murphy served as Assistant U.S. Attorney until 1951. Murphy returned to private practice briefly before being appointed Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1955 by Governor Orville L. Freeman. He was subsequently elected and continued on the Court until his retirement in 1972 at age 73.
Justice Murphy issued 419 majority opinions, three concurring opinions, and 21 dissents during his time on the Court.
He was married to Eveline Broderick in 1929 and they had four children together. She died in 1974.
Justice Murphy died at age 87 on April 24, 1986, in Hastings, Minnesota.
You may read more about the life and work of Justice Murphy in the Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society's book: Testimony: Remembering Minnesota's Supreme Court Justices, which is a source of this brief biography.