TEXAS, USA — Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the Texas Tribune here.
Conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck has acquired the archives of Linda Coffee, the last living member of the legal team that argued Roe v. Wade.
“Roe vs. Wade is history, and now that history is in the hands of a pro-life conservative,” Beck said on his radio show Thursday.
Coffee, 80, put the archive up for auction through an independent auction house earlier this year, with a starting bid of $50,000. There were 14 bids, the auction house’s website said. Beck won with a bid of more than 600,000.
Through a representative, Coffee declined to comment.
Beck rose to prominence as a conservative talk radio host before joining the Fox News Channel in 2009. Almost immediately, he triggered boycotts by calling President Barack Obama a racist and making antisemitic remarks about George Soros. He left Fox after just two years, instead focusing on The Blaze, his frequently imploding right-wing media website.
In 2020, he opened the American Journey Experience, a “museum and training center” in Irving, alongside David Barton, a Christian conservative activist and founder of WallBuilders. The museum encourages guests to “take an active role in defending the American Journey.”
Coffee’s archives will debut this summer as part of an exhibit called “The Blueprints of Freedom,” Beck said on his radio show.
“The Roe archives’ inclusion in the exhibit will underscore Coffee’s bloody legacy that has been undone in the service of life and the proper reading of the Constitution,” Beck said.
The archive spans the width and breadth of the legal fight to establish a constitutional right to abortion: the receipt for the $15 fee to file the original suit; the notarized affidavit from Norma McCorvey, identified in the suit as Jane Roe; and the quill pens given to Coffee for the honor of arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court.
It also contains many of Coffee’s personal mementos, including her law license and the letter she wrote to Sarah Weddington, asking her to join in filing a lawsuit challenging Texas’ abortion ban.
“Would you consider being co-counsel in the event that a suit is actually filed?” Coffee, then just 26 years old, wrote to Weddington. “I have always found that it is a great deal more fun to work with someone on a lawsuit of this nature.”
Before they went up for auction, these documents and artifacts were loosely maintained by Coffee and her partner, Rebecca Hartt, at their home in Mineola. Hartt had filed many of them into binders and taped others onto poster boards hung around their home.
Coffee and Weddington were barely 30 in 1973 when they won their case before the U.S. Supreme Court, knocking down Texas’ abortion law and all other state bans in the process. In 2022, a changed court overturned that ruling, allowing states to pass laws restricting or almost entirely banning abortion.
Texas, where Coffee and Beck both live, banned all abortions except to save the life of the pregnant patient.
The complete upending of her life’s work was part of the motivation to auction off her archives, Coffee told D Magazine. Weddington died in 2020 and after a near-death experience with West Nile Virus, Coffee started grappling with the idea of protecting her legacy.
“That’s why the collection needs to go to the next generation, because you’re not going to have a case like this again,” Hartt told D Magazine. “We don’t know who’s going to end up acquiring it, but hopefully it will motivate some of the people to get into law or politics or whatever, because it needs to be challenged.”
Weddington’s archives were acquired by Texas Woman’s University in 2021. The documents and memorabilia were formally archived and are available to the public for research. Certain artifacts are displayed in the library, according to the university’s website.
“This collection provides a trove of interesting artifacts that will give researchers a veritable front-row seat to historical events affecting women’s issues,” Mary Anne Alhadeff, executive director of the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership, said in a press release at the time.
As for Coffee’s artifacts, Beck said they will be “at home” in his “German eugenics” collection, which includes the last prescription Nazi doctor Josef Mengele wrote before going to work at Auschwitz concentration camp.
He portrayed his acquisitions as an act of historical preservation.
“We are fighting people that hate America so much they will destroy our history,” he said. “They will burn it. They will destroy it any way they can.”
More Texas headlines: