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Marshall, Thurgood 1908–1993

Thurgood Marshall 19081993

Supreme Court justice

Raised in Prosperous Home

Joined NAACP Staff

Helped End School Segregation

Named to Supreme Court

Liberal Voice in Changing Court

Selected writings

Sources

United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall built a distinguished career fighting for the cause of civil rights and equal opportunity. Ebony dubbed Marshall the most important Black man of this centurya man who rose higher than any Black person before him and who has had more effect on Black lives than any other person, Black or White. The first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court, Marshall stood alone as the Supreme Courts liberal conscience toward the end of his career, the last impassioned spokesman for a left-wing view on such causes as affirmative action, abolishment of the death penalty, and due process. His retirement in 1991 left the Court in the hands of more conservative justices.

Duke University professor John Hope Franklin told Ebony: If you study the history of Marshalls career, the history of his rulings on the Supreme Court, even his dissents, you will understand that when he speaks, he is not speaking just for Black Americans but for Americans of all times. He reminds us constantly of the great promise this country has made of equality, and he reminds us that it has not been fulfilled. Through his life he has been a great watchdog, insisting that this nation live up to the Constitution.

Raised in Prosperous Home

Marshalls work on behalf of civil rights spanned five-and-a-half decades and included the history-making Brown vs. Board of Education ruling that led to integration of the nations public schools in 1954. As an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Marshall fought to have blacks admitted to then-segregated state universities, challenged the armed services to offer equal treatment for black recruits, and even assured that blacks would have the right to serve on a jury. John Hope Franklin put it this way: For Black people he holds special significance because it was Thurgood hellip; and a few others who told us we could get justice through interpretation of the law. Marshall was at the head of these lawyers who told us to hold fast because they were going to get the law on our side. And they did.

Marshall was born on July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, Maryland, into modest but prosperous circumstances.

At a Glance

Born on July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, MD; died on January 24, 1993, in Washington, DC; son of William C. (a club steward) and Norma A. (a school teacher) Marshall; married Vivian Burey, 1929 (died, 1955); married Cecilia A. Suyat, 1955; children: (second marriage) Thurgood, Jr., John William. Education; Lincoln University, BA, 1930; Howard University Law School, LLB, 1933. Politics: Democratic.

Career: Admitted to the Maryland Bar, 1933; private law practice, Baltimore, 1933-38; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Assistant Special Counsel, 1936-38; NAACP, Special Counsel, 1938-50; NAACP, director of legal defense and education fund, 1940-46; 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, judge, 1961-65; Solicitor General for the United States of America, 1965-67; United States Supreme Court justice, 1967-91.

Memberships: American Bar Association; National Bar Association; Civil Liberties Union; Masonic Order.

Awards: Spingarn Medal from NAACP, 1946; Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Horatio Alger Award; numerous honorary doctorate degrees.

His mother worked as a teacher in a segregated public elementary school, and his father was a steward at the staunchly all-white Gibson Island yacht club. Marshalls first name derives from a great-grandfather, Thorough-good Marshall, who was brought to America from the Congo as a slave. Both of Thurgood Marshalls grandfathers owned grocery stores. The judge told Ebony that he rarely felt uncomfortable about his race while growing up in Baltimore. He lived in a nice home on Druid Hill Avenue and played with children of both races. He described himself as a mediocre student and a cutup, whose punishment was often to read the United States Constitution out loud. By the time he graduated from high school, he knew it by heart.

In September of 1925, Marshall became a student at Lincoln University, near Philadelphia. He originally intended to study medicine and dentistry, but he changed to the humanities and began to consider a career in law. Williams notes that in college Marshall still was something of a cutuphe was thrown out of the college twice for fraternity pranks. During his junior year, however, he married a student from the University of Pennsylvania, Vivian Burey.

Joined NAACP Staff

The relationship settled him down, and he graduated cum laude from Lincoln in 1930. From there he moved to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he enrolled in the small, all-black law school. The course supervisor was Charles H. Houston, a demanding but inspiring instructor who instilled in his students a burning desire to change segregated society. Marshall graduated first in his class, earning his LLB in 1933. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar the same year.

Returning to Baltimore, Marshall began working as a private practice lawyer. Williams noted, however, that the young lawyer still made time for the fight against segregation. Representing the local NAACP, he negotiated with White store owners who sold to Blacks but would not hire them. Marshall also took the case of a would-be law student who wanted to attend the all-white University of Maryland law school. The case against the university was Marshalls first big one. His former professor came to town to help him argue it, and the judge gave them a favorable ruling. Soon thereafter, Marshall was invited to join the NAACPs national office in New York City as an assistant special counsel. Two years later, in 1938, he became the head special counsel for the powerful organization.

For the next 20 years, Williams wrote, [Marshall] traveled the country using the Constitution to force state and federal courts to protect the rights of Black Americans. The work was dangerous, and Marshall frequently wondered if he might not end up dead or in the same jail holding those he was trying to defend. Marshall prepared cases against the University of Missouri and the University of Texas on behalf of black students. He petitioned the governor of Texas when a black was excluded from jury duty. During and after World War II, he was an outspoken opponent of the government detention of Japanese Americans, and in 1951 he investigated unfair court-martial practices aimed at blacks in the military in Korea and Japan. William H. Hastie, of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, told the New York Times: Certainly no lawyer, and practically no member of the bench has Thurgood Marshalls grasp of the doctrine of law as it affects civil rights.

Helped End School Segregation

The limelight found Marshall in 1954, when he led the legal team that challenged public school segregation in the courts. The case advanced to the U.S. Supreme Court and resulted in a landmark ruling that ended a half-century of segregated schooling. Remembering those days when he worked on Brown vs. Board of Education, Marshall told Ebony that the Courts decision probably did more than anything else to awaken the Negro from his apathy to demanding his right to equality. At the time, however, Marshall was an opponent of civil disobedience for blacks in the South, feeling that organized opposition might lead to white violenceas indeed it did.

Marshalls first wife died after a long illness in 1955. A year later, he married Cecilia Suyat, a secretary at the NAACPs New York office. The Brown vs. Board of Education ruling had made Marshall a national figurehe was known for some time as Mr. Civil Rightsand when Democrats took control of the White House, the ambitious attorney let it be known that he wanted a judgeship.

Eventually, after much opposition from Southern senators and even from Robert Kennedy, Marshall was named to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1961. As the civil rights movement gained ground in the 1960s, so did Marshall. In 1965 he was given the post of United States solicitor general, a position in which he represented the government before the Supreme Court. His most important case during these years was the one leading to the adoption of the Miranda rule, which requires policemen to inform suspects of their rights.

Named to Supreme Court

Against stiff opposition even in his own (Democratic) party, President Lyndon Johnson nominated Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967. Marshalls nomination was opposed most violently by four Southern senators on the Judiciary Committee, but nevertheless he was confirmed by a vote of 69 to 11. He was sworn in and took his seat on October 2, 1967, and he stayed until his failing health forced him to retire in 1991. Williams wrote: Throughout his time on the court, Marshall has remained a strong advocate of individual rights. He has remained a conscience on the bench, never wavering in his devotion to ending discrimination.

Marshall was known as the most tart-tongued member of the court. He was never reticent with his opinions, especially on matters affecting the civil rights agenda. Former justice William Brennan, long Marshalls liberal ally on the court, told Ebony: The only time Thurgood may make people uncomfortable, and perhaps its when they should be made uncomfortable, is when hell take off in a given is another expression of racism.

It came as no surprise therefore that judge Marshall was a vocal critic of both Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Few justices have been known to speak out on political matters, and for years Marshall himself refused to grant interviews. Near the end of his service to the Court, however, Marshall did speak out when he was stung by court reversals on minority set-aside programs and affirmative action. In 1987 Marshall dismissed Reagan as the bottom in terms of his commitment to black Americans. He later told Ebony: I wouldnt do the job of dogcatcher for Ronald Reagan. Marshall later heaped equal vitriol on the Bush administration after the president vetoed an important civil rights bill. The justice told Newsweek that the actions of Bush and Reagan reflect a return to the days when we [blacks] really didnt have a chance.

Liberal Voice in Changing Court

During the more than a decade that Republicans controlled the White House, one by one, retiring judges were replaced with more conservative successors. For many years Marshall and Brennan teamed as the high courts true liberals, and Marshall was gravely disappointed when his colleague was forced to retire. Marshall remained the lone outspoken liberal on the nine-member court, suffering through heart attacks, pneumonia, blood clots, and glaucoma. Marshall steadfastly refused to consider stepping down before absolutely necessary because, as he told Ebony, I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband. One of Marshalls law clerks told People magazine that Marshall felt compelled to remain on the court, perhaps at the expense of his health, because he saw himself as the champion of the underdog. Hes the conscience of the Court, the clerk said. Despite his predictions, Marshalls failing health finally impeded his ability to perform his duties. He retired in 1991 and died of heart failure on January 24, 1993.

Marshall lived with his wife near Washington, D.C., until his death in 1993. Marshalls oldest son, Thurgood, Jr. is an attorney on Senator Edward Kennedys Judiciary Committee staff. The younger son, John, is a Virginia state policeman.

Marshall will be well remembered. Marshall served as a strong leader during the civil rights movement, as an architect of the legal strategy that ended racial segregation, and as the first African-American Justice of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist referred to the words inscribed above the front entrance to the Supreme CourtEqual Justice for AHstating in his eulogy that, Surely no one individual did more to make these words a reality than Thurgood Marshall.

Selected writings

Thurgood Marshall: His Speeches, Writings, Arguments, Opinions, and Reminiscences, Mark V. Tushnet, ed., Lawrence Hill Books, 2001.

Supreme Justice: Speeches and Writings, J. Clay Smith, Jr., ed., University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

Sources

Books

Ball, Howard, Thurgood Marshall and the Persistence of Racism in America, Crown, 1998.

Gibson, Karen Bush, Thurgood Marshall, Bridgestone, 2002.

Williams, Juan, Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary, Time, 1998.

Periodicals

Ebony, May 1990.

Newsweek, September 21, 1987; August 6, 1990.

New York Times, November 23, 1946; April 6, 1951; January 25, 1993.

People, July 7, 1986.

Mark Kram and Sara Pendergast

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Marshall, Thurgood 1908—

Thurgood Marshall 1908

Former Supreme Court justice

At a Glance

Planned to Study Medicine

Joined NAACP Staff

Helped End School Segregation

Named to Supreme Court

Last Liberal on Changing Court

Sources

Former United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall built a distinguished career fighting for the cause of civil rights and equal opportunity. Ebony contributor Juan Williams called Marshall the most important Black man of this centurya man who rose higher than any Black person before him and who has had more effect on Black lives than any other person, Black or White. Prior to his retirement in June of 1991, Marshall stood alone as the Supreme Courts liberal conscience, the last impassioned spokesman for a left-wing view on such causes as affirmative action, abolishment of the death penalty, and due process.

Duke University professor John Hope Franklin told Ebony: If you study the history of Marshalls career, the history of his rulings on the Supreme Court, even his dissents, you will understand that when he speaks, he is not speaking just for Black Americans but for Americans of all times. He reminds us constantly of the great promise this country has made of equality, and he reminds us that it has not been fulfilled. Through his life he has been a great watchdog, insisting that this nation live up to the Constitution.

Marshalls work on behalf of civil rights spanned five and a half decades and included the history-making Brown vs. Board of Education ruling that led to integration of the nations public schools in 1954. As an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Marshall fought to have blacks admitted to segregated state universities, challenged the armed services to offer equal treatment for black recruits, and even assured that blacks would have the right to serve on a jury. John Hope Franklin put it this way: For Black people he holds special significance because it was Thurgood and a few others who told us we could get justice through interpretation of the law. Marshall was at the head of these lawyers who told us to hold fast because they were going to get the law on our side. And they did.

Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1908, into modest but prosperous circumstances. His mother worked as a teacher in a segregated public elementary school, and his father was a steward at the staunchly all-white Gibson Island Yacht Club. Marshalls first name derives from a great-grandfather, Thoroughgood Marshall, who was brought to America from the Congo as a slave. Both

At a Glance

Born July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, MD; son of William C. (a club steward) and Norma A. (a school teacher) Marshall; married Vivian Burey, 1929 (died, 1955); married Cecilia A. Suyat, 1955; children: (second marriage) Thurgood, Jr., John William. Education: Lincoln University, B.A., 1930; Howard University Law School, LL.B., 1933.

Admitted to the Maryland Bar, 1933; practiced law privately in Baltimore, 1933-38; Assistant Special Counsel to National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1936-38; Special Counsel to the NAACP, 1938-50, and director of legal defense and education fund, 1940-61. Named judge, 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, 1961-65; Solicitor-General for the United States of America, 1965-67; United States Supreme Court justice, 1967-91.

Awards: Spingarn Medal from NAACP, 1946; recipient of Horatio Alger Award from Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. Numerous honorary degrees.

Member: American Bar Association, National Bar Association, Civil Liberties Union, and the Masonic Order.

of Thurgood Marshalls grandfathers owned grocery stores. Marshall told Ebony that he rarely felt uncomfortable about his race while growing up in Baltimore. He lived in a nice home on Druid Hill Avenue and played with children of both races. He describes himself as a mediocre student and a cutup, whose punishment was often to read the United States Constitution out loud. By the time he graduated from high school, he knew it by heart.

Planned to Study Medicine

In September of 1925, Marshall became a student at Lincoln University, near Philadelphia. He originally intended to study medicine and dentistry, but he changed to the humanities and began to consider a career in law. Williams noted that in college Marshall still was something of a cutuphe was thrown out of the college twice for fraternity pranks.During his junior year, however, he married a student from the University of Pennsylvania, Vivian Burey.

The relationship settled him down, and he graduated cum laude from Lincoln in 1930. From there he moved to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he enrolled in the small, all-black law school. The course supervisor was Charles H. Houston, a demanding but inspiring instructor who instilled in his students a burning desire to change segregated society. Marshall graduated first in his class, earning his LL.B. in 1933. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar the same year.

Joined NAACP Staff

Returning to Baltimore, Marshall began working as a private practice lawyer. Williams noted, however, that the young lawyer still made time for the fight against segregation. Representing the local NAACP, he negotiated with White store owners who sold to Blacks but would not hire them. Marshall also took the case of a would-be law student who wanted to attend the all-white University of Maryland law school. The case against the university was Marshalls first big one. His former professor came to town to help him argue it, and the judge gave them a favorable ruling. Soon thereafter, Marshall was invited to join the NAACPs national office in New York City as an assistant special counsel. Two years later, in 1938, he became the head special counsel for the powerful organization.

For the next 20 years, Williams wrote, [Marshall] traveled the country using the Constitution to force state and federal courts to protect the rights of Black Americans. The work was dangerous, and Marshall frequently wondered if he might not end up dead or in the same jail holding those he was trying to defend. Marshall prepared cases against the University of Missouri and the University of Texas on behalf of black students. He petitioned the governor of Texas when a black was excluded from jury duty. During and after the Second World War, he was an outspoken opponent of the government detention of Japanese Americans, and in 1951 he investigated unfair court-martial practices aimed at blacks in the military in Korea and Japan. William H. Hastie, of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, told the New York Times: Certainly no lawyer, and practically no member of the bench has Thurgood Marshalls grasp of the doctrine of law as it affects civil rights.

Helped End School Segregation

The limelight found Marshall in 1954, when he led the legal team that challenged public school segregation in the courts. The case advanced to the U.S. Supreme Court and resulted in a landmark ruling that ended a half-century of segregated schooling. Remembering those days when he worked on Brown vs. Board of Education, Marshall told Ebony that the Courts decision probably did more than anything else to awaken the Negro from his apathy to demanding his right to equality. At the time, however, Marshall was an opponent of civil disobedience for blacks in the South, feeling that organized opposition might lead to white violenceas indeed it did.

Marshalls first wife died after a long illness in 1955. A year later, he married Cecilia Suyat, a secretary at the NAACPs New York office. The Brown vs. Board of Education ruling had made Marshall a national figure he was known for some time as Mr. Civil Rightsand when Democrats took control of the White House, the ambitious attorney let it be known that he wanted a judgeship.

Eventually, after much opposition from Southern senators and even from Robert Kennedy, Marshall was named to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1961. As the Civil Rights Movement gained ground in the 1960s, so did Marshall. In 1965 he was given the post of United States Solicitor General, a position in which he represented the government before the Supreme Court. His most important case during these years was the one leading to the adoption of the Miranda rule, which requires the police to inform suspects of their rights.

Named to Supreme Court

Against stiff opposition even in his own (Democratic) party, President Lyndon Johnson nominated Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967. Marshalls nomination was opposed most violently by four Southern senators on the Judiciary Committee, but nevertheless he was confirmed by a vote of 69 to 11. He was sworn in and took his seat on October 2, 1967. Williams wrote: Throughout his time on the court, Marshall has remained a strong advocate of individual rights. He has remained a conscience on the bench, never wavering in his devotion to ending discrimination.

Marshall was known as the most tart-tongued member of the court and was never reticent with his opinions, especially on matters affecting the civil rights agenda. Former justice William Brennan, long Marshalls liberal ally on the court, told Ebony: The only time Thurgood may make people uncomfortable, and perhaps its when they should be made uncomfortable, is when hell take off in a given case that he thinks is another expression of racism.

It is therefore no surprise that Marshall was a vocal critic of both Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Few justices have been known to speak out on political matters, and for years Marshall himself refused to grant interviews. In the years just prior to his retirement, however, Marshall was stung by court reversals on minority set-aside programs and affirmative action. In 1987 Marshall dismissed Reagan as the bottom in terms of his commitment to black Americans. He later told Ebony: I wouldnt do the job of dogcatcher for Ronald Reagan. In 1990 Marshall heaped equal vitriol on the Bush administration after the president vetoed an important civil rights bill. He told Newsweek that the actions of Bush and Reagan reflected a return to the days when we [blacks] really didnt have a chance.

Last Liberal on Changing Court

More than a decade has passed since a Democrat sat in the White House, and inevitably this has brought changes to the nations Supreme Court. One by one, retiring justices have been replaced with more conservative successors. For many years Marshall and Brennan teamed as the high courts true liberals, and Marshall was gravely disappointed when his colleague retired. Marshall was the last outspoken liberal on the nine-member court, and had long voiced his determination to hold his seat despite heart attacks, pneumonia, blood clots, and glaucoma. I have a lifetime appointment, Marshall told Ebony in 1990, and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband.

One of Marshalls law clerks told People magazine that Marshall felt compelled to remain on the Court, perhaps at the expense of his health, because he saw himself as the champion of the underdog. Hes the conscience of the Court, the clerk said, and hes happy in that role. But on June 27, 1991, Marshall announced his retirement from the high court, citing his advancing age and medical condition as reasons for stepping down.

Marshall and his wife live near Washington, D.C. Their oldest son, Thurgood, Jr. is an attorney on Senator Edward Kennedys Judiciary Committee staff. The younger son, John, is a Virginia state policeman. The Marshalls also have several grandchildren. In his spare time the Justice enjoys spending a few days gambling in Atlantic City.

Sources

Ebony, May 1990.

Detroit Free Press, June 28, 1991.

Detroit News, June 28, 1991.

Newsweek, September 21, 1987; August 6, 1990.

New York Times, November 23, 1946; April 6, 1951.

People, July 7, 1986.

Mark Kram

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Marshall, Thurgood

Marshall, Thurgood 1908-1993

EDUCATION AND LAW PRACTICE

BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION

BIBLIOGRAPHY

In 1967 Thurgood Marshall, who was born in Baltimore on July 2, 1908, became the first African American appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Marshalls twenty-four-year tenure as a justice was marked by a strong interest in protecting the rights of criminal defendants (e.g., protection against illegal search and seizure) and opposition to the death penalty (Furman v. Georgia, 1972). Marshalls appointment to the Court was part of a successful career as an advocate for the protection of civil rights. Marshall dedicated his career to enhancing access to every arena of public life, with a particular focus on education, housing, employment, and voting. He believed that promoting equal rights under the law was essential to the proper functioning of democracy. According to Marshall, equal means getting the same thing, at the same time and in the same place (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954). Marshalls dedication created a lasting legacy that encompasses numerous aspects of American jurisprudence. He died in Bethesda, Maryland, on January 24, 1993.

EDUCATION AND LAW PRACTICE

Thurgood (born Thoroughgood) Marshall developed an early interest in education. A cum laude graduate of Lincoln University, he believed that education is the only assured means of promoting both individual and communal success. To Marshall and his contemporaries, education was a necessary means of reshaping the status of American race relations.

After graduating from Lincoln, Marshall enrolled in Howard University Law School, where he met and worked with his mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston. As dean of Howards law school Houston inculcated in his students a commitment to equal justice and a desire to challenge both legal and extralegal segregation. Paramount to that commitment was an emphasis on overturning the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision. That decision was significant because it created a legal doctrine known as separate but equal and provided the legal justification for segregation in many areas, including education and public accommodations. Marshall was influenced deeply by Houstons belief that he and other Howard graduates could force the United States to live up to its promise of equality for all Americans. Marshall graduated from Howard in 1933 and opened up a practice in Baltimore that focused on civil rights cases involving issues such as police brutality, civil disobedience, and housing discrimination. Marshall later assisted the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in its civil rights efforts.

In 1935 Marshall won his first major desegregation case, Murray v. Pearson. Together with his cocounsel, Charles Hamilton Houston, Marshall represented the African American student Donald Gaines Murray, who had been denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School on the basis of its separate but equal admissions policy. Although Murray was a graduate of Amherst College with an impressive academic record, the state of Maryland defended his exclusion, arguing that black students could attend other schools. Marshall had been denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School for the same reason five years earlier. In ruling against the state of Maryland the court of appeals argued that constitutional compliance could not be left to the will of the state. Marshall helped secure the first state-level victory toward overturning Plessy.

Murray became the first in a long line of successes for Marshall. As legal counsel for the NAACP he launched a comprehensive assault on the legally sanctioned practice of exclusion. In 1940 he won his first Supreme Court case, Chambers v. Florida. Over the course of his career Marshall argued thirty-two cases before the Supreme Court; winning twenty-nine, making him the most successful attorney to argue before the Court. As the U.S. solicitor general, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson, Marshall won fourteen of nineteen cases he argued before the Supreme Court.

Marshall successfully argued the 1944 case Smith v. Allwright. The case was significant because it overturned the white primaries that were prominent in the South. Marshall helped reduce the gap between the principle and practice of democracy by opening up the political process to all Americans. He continued to attack the separate but equal doctrine in cases such as Shelley v. Kraemer (1948) that struck down racially restrictive covenants. In two cases in particular, McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents (1950) and Sweatt v. Painter (1950), he fought against segregation in public education. Sweatt found that the state of Texass creation of a separate law school for black students (now Texas Southern University) with inadequate facilities failed to meet the standard of substantive equality.

Although Marshall was successful in arguing the cases, he faced criticism from some black leaders who feared that his legal victories would jeopardize state funding for historically black colleges and universities. Marshall responded to the criticism by stating that we are convinced that it is impossible to have equality in a segregated system, no matter how elaborate we build the Jim Crow citadel and no matter whether we label it the Black University of Texas, The Negro University of Texas, Prairie View Institute, or a more fitting title, An Apology to Negroes for Denying them Their Constitutional Rights to Attend the University of Texas (Sweatt v. Painter, 1947).

BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION

The 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas was the culmination of Marshalls attack on the separate but equal doctrine. Unlike the prior cases Brown specifically outlawed racial segregation in American primary and secondary schools. Timing was critical for Marshalls agenda. Armed with his success in integrating institutions of higher education, Marshall and his NAACP colleagues sponsored five cases affirming their view that separate educational facilities were inherently inferior. Led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Court reached a 90 decision affirming that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954). Although Brown did not result in the immediate desegregation of American public schools (see Brown II [1955], Swann v. CharlotteMecklenburg Board of Education [1971], and Milliken v. Bradley [1974]), it created a firm foundation for judicial support of the civil rights movement and its efforts to integrate all areas of public and private life.

Marshalls commitment to protecting the rights and freedoms of individuals was not restricted to the United States. He investigated allegations of racism in the U.S. armed forces in Japan and South Korea and later assisted in drafting the constitution of Ghana. Thurgood Marshall fundamentally redefined the relationship between citizens and their government by promoting equal rights under the law.

SEE ALSO Brown v. Board of Education, 1954 ; Brown v. Board of Education, 1955 ; Civil Liberties; Civil Rights Movement, U.S.; Desegregation; Education, USA; Houston, Charles Hamilton; Schooling in the USA; Separate-but-Equal; Supreme Court, U.S.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483, 495. 1954. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=347&invol=483.

Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294. 1955. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgibin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=349&invol=294.

Chambers v. Florida, 309 U.S. 227. 1940. http://supreme.justia.com/us/309/227/case.html.

Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238. 1972. http://supreme.justia.com/us/408/238/case.html. McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637. 1950. http://supreme.justia.com/us/339/637/case.html.

Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717. 1974. http://supreme.justia.com/us/418/717/case.html.

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537. 1896. http://supreme.justia.com/us/163/537/case.html.

Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1. 1948. http://supreme.justia.com/us/334/1/case.html.

Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649. 1944. http://supreme.justia.com/us/321/649/case.html.

Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1. 1971. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=402&invol=1.

Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629. 1950. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=339&invol=629.

Warren, Earl. 1954. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka 347 U.S. 483. 1954. http://www.nationalcenter.org/brown.html.

Williams, Juan. 2000. Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary. NY: Three Rivers Press.

Khalilah L. Brown-Dean

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Marshall, Thurgood

Thurgood Marshall

Born: July 2, 1908
Baltimore, Maryland
Died: January 24, 1993
Bethesda, Maryland

African American Supreme Court justice and lawyer

Thurgood Marshall was an American civil rights lawyer, solicitor general, and the first African American to serve as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. During his decades-long law career, Marshall worked for civil rights for all Americans.

Early life and schooling

Thurgood Marshall was born on July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the second child born to Norma Arica Williams, an elementary school teacher, and William Canfield Marshall, a waiter and country club steward. His family enjoyed a comfortable, middle-class existence. Marshall's parents placed great emphasis on education, encouraging Thurgood and his brother to think and learn. Whenever Thurgood got into trouble at school, he was made to memorize sections of the U.S. Constitution. This well-intended punishment would serve him well in his later legal career.

Marshall attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, working a number of jobs to pay his tuition. He became more serious about his studies after being suspended briefly in his second year. After receiving his bachelor's degree, he enrolled in the law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1930 and graduated in 1933. While at Howard he was influenced by Charles Houston (18951950) and other legal scholars who developed and perfected methods for winning civil rights lawsuits.

Civil rights lawyer

Passing the Maryland bar exam (an exam that is given by the body that governs law and that must be passed before one is allowed to practice law) in 1933, Marshall practiced in Baltimore until 1938. He also served as counsel for the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1935 he successfully attacked segregation (separation based on race) and discrimination (unequal treatment) in education when he participated in the desegregation of the University of Maryland Law School, to which he had been denied admission because of his race. Marshall became director of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1939. A year earlier he had been admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the fourth, fifth, and eighth circuits, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

After winning twenty-nine of the thirty-two civil rights cases that he brought before the Supreme Court, Marshall earned the reputation of "America's outstanding civil rights lawyer." During the trials, he and his aides were often threatened with death in the lower courts of some southern states. Some of the important cases he argued became landmarks in the ending of segregation as well as constitutional precedents (examples to help justify similar decisions in the future) with their decisions. These include Smith v. Allwright (1944), which gave African Americans the right to vote in Democratic primary elections; Morgan v. Virginia (1946), which outlawed the state's policy of segregation as it applied to bus transportation between different states; and Sweatt v. Painter (1950), requiring the admission of an African American student to the University of Texas Law School. The most famous was Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which outlawed segregation in public schools and more or less ended the practice once and for all. In addition, the NAACP sent Marshall to Japan and Korea in 1951 to investigate complaints that African American soldiers convicted by U.S. Army courts-martial had not received fair trials. His appeal arguments led to reduced sentences for twenty-two of the forty soldiers.

Presidential appointments

President John F. Kennedy (19171963) nominated Marshall in September 1961 for judge of the Second Court of Appeals. Marshall was confirmed by the Senate a year later after undergoing extensive hearings. Three years later Marshall accepted an appointment from President Lyndon Johnson (19081973) as solicitor general. In this post Marshall successfully defended the United States in a number of important cases concerning industry. Through his office he now defended civil rights actions on behalf of the American people instead of (as in his NAACP days) as counsel strictly for African Americans. However, he personally did not argue cases in which he had previously been involved.

In 1967 President Johnson nominated Marshall as associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. Marshall's nomination was strongly opposed by several southern senators on the Judiciary Committee, but in the end he was confirmed by a vote of sixty-nine to eleven. He took his seat on October 2, 1967, becoming the first African American justice to sit on the Supreme Court. During his time on the Supreme Court, he remained a strong believer in individual rights and never wavered in his devotion to end discrimination. He was a key part of the Court's progressive majority that voted to uphold a woman's right to abortion (a woman's right to end a pregnancy). His majority opinions (statements issued by a judge) covered such areas as the environment, the right of appeal of persons convicted of drug charges, failure to report for and submit to service in the U.S. armed forces, and the rights of Native Americans.

Later years

The years when Ronald Reagan (1911) and George Bush (1924) occupied the White House were a time of sadness for Marshall, as the influence of liberals (those open to and interested in change) on the Supreme Court declined. In 1987 Marshall negatively criticized President Reagan in an interview with Ebony as "the bottom" in terms of his commitment to African Americans. He later told the magazine, "I wouldn't do the job of dogcatcher for Ronald Reagan." Marshall viewed the actions of the conservative (those interested in maintaining traditions) Republican presidents as a step back to the days when "we (African Americans) didn't really have a chance." Marshall was greatly disappointed when his friend and liberal colleague (coworker), Justice William J. Brennan Jr. (19061997), retired from the Supreme Court because of to ill health. Marshall vowed to serve until he was 110; however, he was finally forced by illness to give up his seat in 1991. He died in 1993 at the age of eighty-four.

Justice Marshall had been born during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt (18581919) but had lived to see African Americans rise to positions of power and influence in America. To a great degree, the progress of African Americans toward equal opportunity was aided by the legal victories won by him. By his death, he was considered a hero. His numerous honors included more than twenty honorary degrees from educational institutions in America and abroad. The University of Maryland Law School was named in his honor, as were a variety of elementary and secondary schools around the nation. During his life he received the NAACP's Spingarn Medal (1946), the Negro Newspaper Publisher Association's Russwurm Medal (1948), and the Living Makers of Negro History Award of the lota Phi Lambda Sorority (1950). His name was inscribed on the honor roll of the Schomburg History Collection of New York for the advancement of race relations. He enjoyed family life with his second wife and their two sons, who themselves pursued careers in public life. Dignified and solemn in manner, but blessed with a sense of humor, Marshall's career was an example of the power and possibility of American democracy.

For More Information

Arthur, Joe. The Story of Thurgood Marshall: Justice for All. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1995.

Hitzeroth, Deborah, and Sharon Leon. Thurgood Marshall. San Diego: Lucent Books, 1997.

Tushnet, Mark V. Making Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court 19361961. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Tushnet, Mark V. Making Constitutional Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court 19611991. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Williams, Juan. Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary. New York: Times Books, 1998.

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Marshall, Thurgood

MARSHALL, THURGOOD

Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, saw law as a catalyst for social change. For nearly 60 years, as both a lawyer and a jurist, Marshall worked to dismantle the system of segregation and improve the legal and social position of minorities.

Marshall was born July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, the son of a Pullman porter and a schoolteacher. He was a graduate of Lincoln University, a small, all-black college in Pennsylvania, and Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C. At Howard, Marshall excelled under the guidance of Vice Dean charles hamilton houston, the first African American to win a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Houston encouraged his students to become not just lawyers but "social engineers" who could use the legal system to improve society. Marshall graduated first in his law class in 1933.

Marshall's attendance at predominantly black Howard University illustrates the barriers faced by African Americans during the early twentieth century. Although Marshall wished to attend law school at the University of Maryland (a public institution in his home town of Baltimore), he was prohibited by law from doing so because of his race. This injustice helped set Marshall on a course of opposing all forms of official segregation that denied equal opportunities to African Americans.

"The government [that the framers of the Constitution] devised required several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, that we hold as fundamental today."
Thurgood Marshall

After law school, Marshall set up a practice in Baltimore, representing indigent clients in civil rights cases. In 1936, his mentor Houston offered him a position with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (naacp), and in 1940, Marshall became director of the naacp legal defense and educational fund, a position he held until 1961. Determined to eliminate segregation, Marshall coordinated a nationwide campaign to integrate higher education. He filed several successful lawsuits against public graduate and professional schools that refused to accept African-American students. These suits paved the way for similar cases at the high school and elementary school levels. Marshall also journeyed throughout the deep South, traveling fifty thousand miles a year to fight jim crow laws (a series of laws that provided for racial segregation in the South) and to represent criminal defendants.

Marshall argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and won 29 of them. No doubt his most famous and far-reaching triumph before the High Court was brown v. board of education of topeka, kansas, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954). In that case, the father of African-American student Linda Brown sued the school board of Topeka, Kansas, over its segregation policy. Brown was required by law to attend an all African-American school several blocks from her home even though an all white public school was located in her own neighborhood. Under Kansas law, cities of more than 15,000 people, such as Topeka, could choose to operate segregated schools. Marshall argued that these segregated schools, defended by officials as "separate but equal," were unconstitutional.

The separate-but-equal doctrine originated in plessy v. ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 16 S. Ct. 1138, 41 L. Ed. 256 (1896), a case allowing segregated public accommodations for whites

and blacks. In a plainspoken argument, Marshall dismissed as fallacy the notion that segregated schools offered the same educational experiences to black and white students. Sociological and psychological studies demonstrated that black children were in fact harmed by the policy of school segregation. The students' self-esteem was damaged and their future diminished when they were forced to accept inadequate facilities, equipment, and educational opportunities. Marshall argued that the only purpose segregation served was to perpetuate the myth of African-Americans' inferiority. A unanimous Court agreed and struck down the separate-but-equal doctrine, a

momentous victory for Marshall, affecting public schools in twenty-one states.

Marshall was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1961, and served there until 1965 when he was named solicitor general for the United States. He was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 by President lyndon b. johnson and served as an associate justice for 24 years.

While on the Court, Marshall was known more for his impassioned dissents than for his majority opinions. In particular, as a staunch opponent of capital punishment, he regularly voiced his disagreement with the majority in death penalty cases. He was also a firm backer of affirmative action and contributed one of his most famous dissents in regents of the university of california v. bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 98 S. Ct. 2733, 57 L. Ed. 2d 750 (1978). In that case, Marshall criticized the high court's ruling that a public medical school's policy of reserving 16 of 100 spots for minority students was unconstitutional. Marshall also dissented in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 93 S. Ct. 1278, 36 L. Ed. 2d 16 (1973), disagreeing with the majority view that a Texas property tax system used to fund public education was acceptable, even though it allowed wealthier districts to provide a better school system for students in those districts than less wealthy districts could provide. Marshall objected strongly to the property tax arrangement, claiming that it deprived poor children of an equal education.

Marshall wrote the majority opinion in Amalgamated Food Employees Union v. Logan Valley Plaza, 391 U.S. 308, 88 S. Ct. 1601, 20 L. Ed. 2d 603 (1968), in which the Court declared that a shopping center was a public forum from which picketers could not be barred by private owners.

Marshall retired from the Court in 1991, but continued his criticism of government policies that were detrimental to African Americans or other disenfranchised groups.

Marshall died on January 24, 1993, in Bethesda, Maryland. Upon Marshall's death, nearly 20,000 mourners filed by his casket during the 12 hours it lay in state in the Great Hall of the U.S. Supreme Court.

further readings

Bland, Randall Walton. 2001. Justice Thurgood Marshall: Crusader for Liberalism: His Judicial Biography (1908–1993). Bethesda, Md.: Academica Press.

Clemon, U.W., and Bryan K. Fair. 2003. "Lawyers, Civil Disobedience, and Equality in the Twenty-First Century: Lessons from Two American Heroes. Alabama Law Review, 54 (spring): 959–83.

Kennedy, Randall. 1999. "Thurgood's Coming": Long Before He Became the Nation's First Black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall Was a Lawyer on the Razor's Edge of American Social Struggle. American Lawyer 21 (December): 94.

Maloy, Richard H.W. 1999. "Thurgood Marshall and the Holy Grail—the Due Process Jurisprudence of a Consummate Jurist." Pepperdine Law Review 26 (January): 289–352.

Tushnet, Mark V. 1997. Making Constitutional Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1961–1991. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Williams, Juan. Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary. 2000. New York: Times Books.

cross-references

Civil Rights Movement; Integration; School Desegregation.

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Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was an American civil rights lawyer, solicitor general, and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thurgood Marshall was born on July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, Maryland, where his mother was a teacher and his father a headwaiter and country club steward. Parental qualities of thoroughness, excellence, justice, and equality, along with humility, pride, and aggressiveness, early impressed him. Marshall attended Lincoln University, where he received his bachelor's degree cum laude, and then enrolled in the law school at Howard University in 1930, from which he graduated magna cum laude in 1933. While at Howard he came under the influence of Charles Houston and the group of legal scholars who developed and perfected techniques and procedures for civil rights litigation.

Passing the Maryland bar in 1933, Marshall practiced in Baltimore until 1938, serving also as counsel for the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1935 he successfully attacked segregation and discrimination in education when he participated in the desegregation of the University of Maryland Law School (where he had been denied admission because of race). Marshall became director of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1939. A year earlier he had been admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the fourth, fifth, and eighth circuits, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Winning 29 of the 32 civil rights cases which he and his aides argued before the Supreme Court (and sometimes threatened with death as he argued cases in the lower courts of some southern states), Marshall earned the reputation of "America's outstanding civil rights lawyer." Some of the important cases he argued, which became landmarks in the destruction of segregation, as well as constitutional precedents with their decisions, include Smith v. Allwright (1944), establishing the rights of African-Americans to vote in Democratic primary elections; Morgan v. Virginia (1946), outlawing the state's segregation policy as applied to interstate bus transportation; Shelley v. Kramer (1948), outlawing restrictive covenants in housing; and Sweatt v. Painter (1950), requiring admission of an African-American student to the University of Texas Law School. The most famous was Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), which outlawed segregation in public schools and for all practical purposes "sounded the death knell for all forms of legally sanctioned segregation."

The NAACP sent Marshall to Japan and Korea in 1951 to investigate complaints that African-American soldiers convicted by U. S. Army courts-martial had not received fair trials. His appeal arguments got the sentences of 22 of the 40 men reduced.

President John Kennedy nominated Marshall on Sept. 23, 1961, for judge of the Second Court of Appeals; he was confirmed by the Senate a year later after undergoing strenuous hearings. Three years later Marshall accepted President Lyndon Johnson's appointment as solicitor general. In this post Marshall successfully defended the United States in a number of important cases concerning industry. Of no little interest was the fact that through his office he now defended civil rights actions as advocate for the American people instead of (as in his NAACP days) as counsel strictly for African-Americans; however, he personally did not argue cases in which he had previously been involved.

In 1967 President Johnson nominated Marshall as associate justice to the U. S. Supreme Court. Marshall's nomination was strenuously opposed by several Southern senators on the Judiciary Committee but nevertheless he was confirmed by a vote of 69 to 11. He took his seat on October 2, 1967, and was the first African-American justice to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

During his nearly quarter-century on the Supreme Court, he remained a strong advocate of individual rights and never wavered in his devotion to ending discrimination. He formed a key part of the Court's progressive majority which voted to uphold a woman's right to abortion. His majority opinions covered such areas as ecology, the right of appeal of persons convicted of narcotic charges, failure to report for and submit to induction into the U. S. Armed Forces, obscenity, and the rights of Native Americans.

The Reagan-Bush years in the White House and the slow dwindling of the liberal influence on the Court was a time of sadness for Marshall. Always tart tongued, in 1987 Marshall dismissed President Reagan in an interview with Ebony as "the bottom" in terms of his commitment to black Americans. He later told the magazine: "I wouldn't do the job of dogcatcher for Ronald Reagan." There is no question that Marshall viewed the actions of the conservative Republican presidents as a throwback to the days when "we (African-Americans) didn't really have a chance." Marshall was keenly disappointed when his friend and liberal colleague, Justice William J. Brennan Jr., retired from the Court due to ill heath. Marshall vowed to serve until he was 110 and then die "shot by a jealous husband." However, suffering heart attacks, pneumonia, blood clots, and glaucoma, Marshall himself was forced by illness to give up his seat in 1991. He died in 1993 at the age of 84.

Justice Marshall had been born during Theodore Roosevelt's administration but lived to see African-Americans rise to positions of power and influence in America. To no small degree, the progress of black Americans toward equal opportunity turned upon the legal victories won by him. By his death, even in retirement, he had risen to the stature of mythic hero. His numerous honors included more than 20 honorary degrees from educational institutions in America and abroad. The University of Maryland Law School was named in his honor, as were a variety of elementary and secondary schools around the nation. During his life he received the NAACP's Spingarn Medal (1946), the Negro Newspaper Publisher Association's Russwurm Medal (1948), and the Living Makers of Negro History Award of the lota Phi Lambda Sorority (1950), and his name was inscribed on the honor roll of the Schomburg History Collection of New York for the advancement of race relations. He enjoyed the family life of his second wife and their two sons, Thurgood Jr. and John, who themselves pursued careers in public life. Marshall's first wife died in 1955. A little over 6 feet tall and dignified and solemn in manner, but endowed with a sense of humor, Marshall portrayed homely virtues and a deep reverence for God. Unique as his career was, it epitomized the potential of American democracy.

Further Reading

For periodical articles dealing with Marshall's life and career, see Newsweek (Sept. 21, 1987 and Aug. 6, 1990). Of the numerous books on Marshall's life and career, a well-received analysis was contained in the twin volumes Making Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court 1936-1961 (1994) and Making Constitutional Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court 1961-1991 (1997) by Mark V. Thusnet. An early biography of Marshall is Lewis H. Fenderson, ed., Thurgood Marshall (1969). □

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Marshall, Thurgood

Thurgood Marshall, 1908–93, U.S. lawyer and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1967–91), b. Baltimore. He received his law degree from Howard Univ. in 1933. In 1936 he joined the legal staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. As its chief counsel (1938–61), he argued more than 30 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, successfully challenging racial segregation, most notably in higher education. His presentation of the argument against the "separate but equal" doctrine achieved its greatest impact with the landmark decision handed down in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). His appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1961 was opposed by some Southern senators and was not confirmed until 1962. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to the Supreme Court two years later; he was the first black to sit on the high court, where he consistently supported the position taken by those challenging discrimination based on race or sex, opposed the death penalty, and supported the rights of criminal defendants. His support for affirmative action led to his strong dissent in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978). As appointments by Presidents Nixon and Reagan changed the outlook of the Court, Marshall found himself increasingly in the minority; in retirement he was outspoken in his criticism of the court.

See biography by J. Williams (1998); studies by R. W. Bland (1973) and H. Ball (1999); R. Kluger, Simple Justice (1976).

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Marshall, Thurgood

Marshall, Thurgood (1908–93) US lawyer and Supreme Court justice. As counsel (1938–62) for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he played a key role in obtaining US Supreme Court judgments against racial segregation in schools. He was appointed solicitor general (1965) and became the first African-American associate justice of the US Supreme Court (1967–91).

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Marshall, Thurgood

Marshall, Thurgood

July 2, 1908
January 24, 1993


Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights lawyer and associate justice of U. S. Supreme Court, distinguished himself as a jurist in a wide array of settings. As the leading attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1938 to 1961, he pioneered the role of professional civil rights advocate. As the principal architect of the legal attack against de jure racial segregation, Marshall oversaw the most successful campaign of social reform litigation in American history. As a judge on the United States Court of Appeals, solicitor general of the United States, and associate justice of the Supreme Court, he amassed a remarkable record as a public servant. Given the influence of his achievements over a long span of time, one can reasonably argue that Thurgood Marshall may have been the outstanding attorney of twentieth-century America.

Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, where his father was a steward at an exclusive all-white boat club, and his mother was an elementary school teacher. He attended public schools in Baltimore before proceeding to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he shared classes with, among others, Cabell "Cab" Calloway, the entertainer; Kwame Nkrumah, who became president of Ghana; and Nnamdi Azikiwe, who became president of Nigeria. After graduating, he was excluded from the University of Maryland School of Law because of racial segregation. Marshall attended the Howard University School of Law, where he fell under the tutelage of Charles Hamilton Houston. Houston elevated academic standards at Howard, turning it into a veritable hothouse of legal education and training many of those who would later play important roles in the campaign against racial discrimination. Marshall graduated in 1933, first in his class.

After engaging in a general law practice briefly, Marshall was persuaded by Houston to pursue a career working as an attorney on behalf of the NAACP. Initially he worked as Houston's deputy, but in 1939 he took over from his mentor as the NAACP's special counsel. In that position Marshall confronted an extraordinary array of legal problems that took him from local courthouses, where he served as a trial attorney, to the Supreme Court of the United States, where he developed his skills as an appellate advocate. Over a span of two decades, he argued thirty-two cases before the Supreme Court, winning twenty-nine of them. He convinced the Court to invalidate practices that excluded blacks from primary elections (Smith v. Allwright, 1944), to prohibit segregation in interstate transportation (Morgan v. Virginia, 1946), to nullify convictions obtained from juries from which African Americans had been barred on the basis of their race (Patton v. Mississippi, 1947), and to prohibit state courts from enforcing racially restrictive real estate covenants (Shelley v. Kraemer, 1948).

Marshall's greatest triumphs arose, however, in the context of struggles against racial discrimination in public education. In 1950, in Sweatt v. Painter, he successfully argued that a state could not fulfill its federal constitutional obligation by hurriedly constructing a "Negro" law school that was inferior in tangible and intangible ways to the state's "white" law school. That same year he successfully argued in McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents that a state university violated the federal constitution by admitting an African-American student and then confining that student, on the basis of his race, to a specified seat in classrooms and a specified table in the school cafeteria. In 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, Marshall culminated his campaign by convincing the Court to rule that racial segregation is invidious racial discrimination and thus invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution.

In 1961, over the objections of white supremacist southern politicians, President John F. Kennedy nominated Marshall to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. Later, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall to two positions that had never previously been occupied by an African American. In 1965 President Johnson appointed Marshall as solicitor general, and in 1967 he nominated him to a seat on the Supreme Court.

Throughout his twenty-four years on the Court, Marshall was the most insistently liberal of the justices, a stance that often drove him into dissent. His judgments gave broad scope to individual liberties (except in cases involving asserted claims to rights of property). Typically he supported claims of freedom of expression over competing concerns and scrutinized skeptically the claims of law enforcement officers in cases implicating federal constitutional provisions that limit the police powers of government. In the context of civil liberties, the most controversial positions that Marshall took involved rights over reproductive capacities and the death penalty. He viewed as unconstitutional laws that prohibit women from exercising considerable discretion over the choice to continue a pregnancy or to terminate it through abortion. Marshall also viewed as unconstitutional all laws permitting the imposition of capital punishment.

The other side of Marshall's jurisprudential liberalism was manifested by an approach to statutory and constitutional interpretation that generally advanced egalitarian policies. His judgments displayed an unstinting solicitude for the rights of labor, the interests of women, the struggles of oppressed minorities, and the condition of the poor. One particularly memorable expression of Marshall's empathy for the indigent is his dissent in United States v. Kras (1973), a case in which the Court held that a federal statute did not violate the Constitution by requiring a $50 fee of persons seeking the protection of bankruptcy. Objecting to the Court's assumption that, with a little self-discipline, the petitioner could readily accumulate the required fee, Marshall wrote that

It may be easy for some people to think that weekly savings of less than $2 are no burden. But no one who has had close contact with poor people can fail to understand how close to the margin of survival many of them are. It is perfectly proper for judges to disagree about what the Constitution requires. But it is disgraceful for an interpretation of the Constitution to be premised upon unfounded assumptions about how people live.

Marshall retired from the Court in 1991, precipitating the most contentious confirmation battle in the nation's history when President George Bush nominated as Marshall's successor Clarence Thomas, an ultraconservative African-American jurist.

After his death, Marshall's extraordinary contributions to American life were memorialized in an outpouring of popular grief and adulation greater than that expressed for any previous justice. Marshall has been the object of some controversy since his death. Immediately after his death, a public debate opened over Marshall's instructions regarding his confidential Supreme Court papers. Ultimately, the Library of Congress opened them to public access without restriction. In 1996 newly uncovered documents demonstrated that Marshall had passed secret information to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover during his years at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. These developments have not detracted from Marshall's heroic position in American history, in tribute to which he was honored by the erection of a statue in his native Baltimore in 1995.

See also Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas ; Civil Rights Movement, U.S.; Fourteenth Amendment; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Sweatt v. Painter

Bibliography

Bland, Randall W. Private Pressure on Public Law: The Legal Career of Justice Thurgood Marshall. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1973.

Kluger, Richard. Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality. New York: Vintage, 1977.

Rowan, Carl. Dream Makers, Dream Breakers: The World of Justice Thurgood Marshall. Boston: Little, Brown, 1993.

Williams, Juan. Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary. New York: Random House, 2001.

randall kennedy (1996)
Updated bibliography

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Marshall, Thurgood

Marshall, Thurgood 1908–1993

Thurgood Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 2, 1908. Later known as “Mr. Civil Rights,” Marshall devoted his life to advancing individual rights for African Americans, the poor, and the disadvantaged. He served as legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and as solicitor general; and he became the first African American Supreme Court justice. A talented advocate and jurist, Marshall argued for decisions striking down “white primaries,” which prevented southern blacks from voting in primary elections; “restrictive covenants,” or agreements not to sell land to blacks; and segregation in schools, transportation, parks, and other public accommodations. Former Supreme Court justice William Brennan Jr. described Marshall as “probably the most important legal advocate in America and the central figure in this nation’s struggle to eliminate institutional racism” (Davis 1994, p. 14). Marshall believed that lawyers can be social reformers and that equal protection was a right guaranteed to all regardless of race. His mission, according to Marshall, was to make “the law a reality for those to whom it is now largely meaningless” (Ball 1998, p. 382).

Marshall was born into a society that practiced racial segregation of people by law or custom in employment, housing, schools, parks, and stores, especially in states of the ex-Confederacy. Segregation meant inferior treatment, limited educational and job opportunities, and legal and social harassment on the basis of race. The lines were strict and rigidly drawn in the South, and Marshall was influenced by the arbitrariness and violence of racism that resulted in restricted opportunities, violations of equal rights, threats, violence, and death.

Marshall attended historically black Lincoln University in Chester, Pennsylvania, graduating with honors. He then matriculated at the historically black Howard University School of Law, where he met his lifelong mentor and friend, Charles Hamilton Houston. Houston believed that black lawyers were to be “social engineers” who had a responsibility to advocate to advance the interests of the group. Houston’s influence bolstered Marshall’s conviction that the U.S. Constitution could be a powerful tool against discrimination and to advance and protect the rights of African Americans.

After graduating magna cum laude in 1933, Marshall opened a private practice in Baltimore, Maryland. During this time he began his successful civil rights practice. In 1935, he filed suit against the University of Maryland Law School for its failure to admit Donald Murray based on his race. With Houston’s counsel, Marshall won the first case to require the admission of a black student to an all-white school. Marshall argued that Murray’s exclusion from the Maryland law school violated the “separate-but-equal” doctrine because Maryland did not offer an “equal” law school for its black citizens. University of Maryland v. Murray (1935) became one in a series of cases that relied on constitutional principles to topple the “separate-but-equal” system. In response to the Murray decision, a fellow civil rights lawyer said of Marshall. “He brought us the Constitution as a document like Moses brought the people the Ten Commandments” (Davis 1994, p. 18).

Marshall was appointed as the NAACP assistant special counsel in New York City in 1936. He later became director counsel of the NAACP, serving in that position for twenty-one years. While at the NAACP, Marshall implemented the legal strategy for the Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which involved attacking segregation in housing and education and racial discrimination in the judicial process and voting. Marshall also traveled throughout the United States talking to people about the unjust system of white supremacy that denied opportunity and justice to African Americans. During his employment at the NAACP, Marshall argued thirty-two cases before the Supreme Court and won twenty-nine of them. Through his work as a tireless advocate for equality, he became known as “Mr. Civil Rights.” Marshall successfully argued against excluding blacks from primary elections and convinced the Court that the enforcement of “restrictive covenants,” or private agreements not to sell land to blacks, violated the Constitution. In a series of cases beginning with Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Marshall’s work led to findings that segregation in public education, transportation, parks, and swimming pools is unconstitutional.

The 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education is perhaps the single most important case in which Marshall participated. Marshall and his team eloquently argued the unconstitutionality of “separate but equal,” relying heavily on scientific and sociological research that challenged the concept of race and racial distinctions. Grounded in research by noted historians and psychologist Dr. Kenneth Clark, Marshall argued that separate was inherently unequal and, therefore, offended the Constitution’s guarantee of equality. Clark’s work demonstrated that segregation by race resulted in psychological and emotional harms to blacks, who were stamped with a “badge of inferiority.” Marshall argued that segregation violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. The Court agreed with Marshall and his cocounsel and unanimously ruled that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

His influence on the country and Supreme Court jurisprudence gained significant praise and attention. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Faced with a broader spectrum of cases than he argued as a civil rights advocate, Marshall wrote ninety-eight opinions as an appellate court judge and, in many, continued to express concern for the poor and underprivileged in America. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall as the solicitor general of the United States. Marshall won fourteen of the nineteen cases he argued for the government, many of which involved civil rights and privacy.

Marshall was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967, becoming the Court’s first black justice. He served on the Court for twenty-four years until he retired in 1991 at the age of eighty-two. During his time on the bench, Marshall was a tireless supporter of the rights of the poor, opposing governmental action that unfairly or disproportionately affected the poor. In addition, he embraced First Amendment right of free speech and consistently opposed capital punishment as excessive. Marshall worked to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans and believed firmly in race and gender equity, as well as the need to remedy the ongoing effects of discrimination.

A champion for civil rights, Marshall was one of the country’s greatest advocates for racial justice and was responsible for a transformation of the American system of racial segregation. He believed firmly in the potential of the Constitution to protect the rights of the under-served, and after retirement from the Court he noted: “Americans can do better… . America has no choice but to do better to assure justice for all Americans, Afro and white, rich and poor, educated and illiterate … Our futures are bound together” (Davis 1994, p. 369). Marshall died on January 24, 1993. His death was mourned and his life was celebrated by thousands. At his funeral Vernon Jordan, former head of the National Urban League, remarked, “He was a teacher who taught us to believe in the shield of justice and the sword of truth, a role model whose career made us dream large dreams and work to secure them, an agent of change who transformed the way an entire generation thought of itself, of its place in our society, and of the law itself” (Davis 1994, p. 388).

SEE ALSO Bates, Daisy; Brown v. Board of Education; Houston, Charles Hamilton; NAACP.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ball, Howard. 1998. A Defiant Life: Thurgood Marshall and the Persistence of Racism in America. New York: Crown.

Davis, Michael, D., and Hunter R. Clark. 1994. Thurgood Marshall, Warrior at the Bar, Rebel on the Bench. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group.

Tushnet, Mark V. 1994. Making Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1936–1961. New York: Oxford University Press.

Williams, Juan. 1998. Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary. New York: Times Books.

Deseriee A. Kennedy

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Marshall, Thurgood

Marshall, Thurgood

(b. 2 July 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland; d. 24 January 1993 in Bethesda, Maryland), lawyer and jurist who was chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the first African American to sit as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Marshall was the son of William C. Marshall, a dining room steward at an all-white club, and Norma Arica Williams, a teacher. Marshall attended public schools in segregated Baltimore, where the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson legitimized the separation of the races and placed the Court’s imprimatur on state-mandated Jim Crowism. As a young man, he had to address racism in the streets with his fists. “Son,” Marshall’s father admonished, “if anyone ever calls you a nigger, you not only got my permission to fight him”you got my orders to fight him.’ He graduated from Frederick Douglass High School, then attended Lincoln University, a predominantly black school in Pennsylvania. In 1929 he married Vivian “Buster” Burey. After graduation in 1930, he entered the predominantly black Howard University Law School. He had been denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School because of his race, but Marshall was able to “remedy” this slight in 1935, when he won a lawsuit in the Maryland Court of Appeals that ordered the Law School to admit black students.

At Howard, Marshall was exposed to the teachings of Charles Hamilton Houston, who encouraged his students to think of lawyers as social engineers. For Houston, lawyers should “shape litigation into a vehicle for sustained social protest, choosing a case to argue not only on the basis of an individual’s need but also on the basis of the needs of a cause.” Marshall adopted the Houston definition of attorney as public interest lawyer. After graduating first in his class from Howard Law School in 1933, Marshall practiced

law in Baltimore, then in 1934 went to work for the NAACP under Houston, who was the NAACP’s first full-time salaried special counsel. When Houston stepped down in 1938, Marshall became the director of the NAACP’s newly created Legal Defense and Education Fund. He won fourteen civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court while with the NAACP. After the University of Maryland desegregation case in 1935, Marshall successfully argued the unconstitutionality of excluding black voters from primary elections (Smith v. Allwright, 1944), racial restrictions in housing (Shelley v. Kraemer, 1948), and, in two cases in 1950, separate-but-equal facilities in state universities (Sweatt v. Painter and McLauren v. Oklahoma State Regents).

His most famous case before the Supreme Court was Brown v. Board of Education of Topera (1954), which overturned the separate-but-equal racial segregation policy in public schools and signaled the end of the era of segregation in all public facilities. In February of the following year his wife died, and in December he married Cecilia “Cissy” Suyat; they had two children.

In 1961 Marshall was nominated for the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals by President John F. Kennedy. As shown in the Senate confirmation hearings, there was great consternation in the legislature and in the nation about the appointment of an African American to the federal appeals bench. Senators such as North Carolina’s Sam Ervin and South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond, cognizant of Marshall’s legal successes against Jim Crowism in the federal courts, did not believe that Marshall had the intelligence or the temperament to serve as a federal appeals court judge.

Furthermore, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy tried to block the appointment. One tense conversation between the two ended when Kennedy started talking about the trouble with ’you people.’ Marshall broke off the conversation, saying, ’I never like anybody [calling] me “you people,” because I know what they’re talking about.’ Marshall rejected the offer, stating to Kennedy that the ’trouble with you is that you are different from me. You don’t know what it means, but all I’ve had in my life is nothing. It’s [rejection] not new to me. So goodbye.’ President Kennedy, however, pressed for the appointment, and after nearly a year of delay and attacks by southerners in the Senate, Marshall was confirmed.

Marshall’s appointment in 1961 by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the position of U.S. solicitor general was seen as an action of “racial preference” by many (as was Kennedy’s appointment of Marshall to the Court of Appeals) who believed that Marshall really was fundamentally inferior and unfit to serve on the federal courts. After President Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967, Marshall, the first African American to sit on the Court, was depicted, even by his brethren, as a person who was appointed because of his race. Behind his back some even referred to Marshall as the “house nigger.” But for Marshall there was always the belief that the law would, in the end, open the doors to equal opportunity for blacks and other minorities in America. “If we are ever to become a fully integrated society,” wrote Marshall in a dissent in 1978, ’one in which the color of a person’s skin will not determine the opportunities available to him or her, we must be willing to take steps to open those doors.’

Marshall believed that a task of judges, when adjudicating concrete cases before them, was to try to ensure that all persons have the possibility of living in a “just and humane society.” He believed that all persons have the right to be free of all forms of capricious discrimination; that all persons must have access to decent education, decent housing, and decent jobs; and that all persons have a significant interest in the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause to be free from governmental interference in their personal lives. He also believed that, in order to maintain and protect these valued liberties, the courts had to be available to all persons, regardless of their financial status. Again and again he was very critical of a Court majority that ignored the peculiar circumstances of the impoverished. This meant that the Supreme Court justice’s role in a constitutional republic was to give meaning to the evolving words of the Constitution in such a manner as to provide justice to the weak and the underclasses who needed its protections. For the justices of the Supreme Court to ignore their legal and constitutional oaths to provide justice for both the rich and the poor was an unforgivable lack of fundamental fairness. Unfortunately, such decisions by the Court majority while Marshall served on the Supreme Court were not uncommon, and he spoke out, in conference and in his dissents.

For example, in San Diego Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973), the Court upheld the constitutionality of using local property taxes to finance schools, thereby enabling school districts with high property tax bases to provide better schools than poorer districts. Marshall, however, dissented, believing that state policies that have the effect of discriminating on the basis of wealth were subject to judicial scrutiny. In his opinion, the Constitution provided the “right of every American to an equal start in life.” Equality of opportunity was a value he had seen as primary when fighting the NAACP battles in federal courts. As a Supreme Court justice, Marshall continued to argue for its primacy, finding it in the language of the Constitution.

Although Marshall often said he would never retire from the Court, failing health prevented him from staying on until a new presidential administration could appoint another liberal to his seat. In June 1991, about a month before his eighty-third birthday, he announced his retirement for health reasons. A reporter asked him what was wrong, and Marshall replied, “I’m old. I’m getting old and coming apart.” His retirement took effect in October.

Just days before his death in January 1993, Marshall was

scheduled to swear in the newly elected Democratic vice president, Al Gore, but his health prevented him from doing so. He died of heart failure at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Known as “Mr. Civil Rights,” Marshall fought battles against racism and segregation at a time when black legal advocates confronted extreme danger. “You know,” said an elderly African American cabdriver, “Marshall was like Joe Louis for us. He was the black man who was always there to inspire you. The white folk would send up their best against him, and he would knock them out time after time.” Marshall was the consummate lawyer, in his own words “a man of the law.” Law mattered for him more than any other societal norm. One of his clerks said, he ’is someone who deeply believes in the law. . . . He has faith that the law matters—that it is a real thing you can point to and say, “This is the right answer” or “This is the wrong answer.”

Marshall’s letters and papers are located at the Madison Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Biographies of Marshall are Howard Ball, A Defiant Life: Thurgood Marshall and the Persistence ofRaasm in America (1999); Michael D. Davis and Hunter R. Clark, Thurgood Marshall: Warrior at the Bar, Rebel on the Bench (1992); Roger Goldman and David Gallen, Thurgood Marshall: Justice for All (1992); and CarlT. Rowan, Dream Makers, Dream Breakers: The World of Justice Thurgood Marshall (1993). For information on Marshall’s civil rights cases before he became a Supreme Court justice, see Jack Greenberg, Crusaders in the Courts: How a Dedicated Band of Lawyers Fought for the Civil Rights Revolution (1994); and MarkTushnet, The NAACP’s Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925-1950 (1987) and Maying Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1936-1961. Articles of interest on Marshall’s views of the law and justice are: Kevin T. Baine, “Wit, Wisdom, and Compassion of Justice Thurgood Marshall,” Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 20 (spring 1993): 497-502; Lucius J. Barker, “Thurgood Marshall, the Law, and the System: Tenets of an Enduring Legacy,” Stanford Law Review 44 (summer 1992): 1237-1247; Susan Low Bloch, “Thurgood Marshall: Courageous Advocate, Compassionate Judge,” Georgetown Law Review 80 (1993): 2003-2009; and Juan Williams, “Marshall’s Law: The Triumph of Thurgood Marshall,” Washington Post Magazine (7 Jan. 1990). An obituary is in the New York Times (25 Jan. 1993).

Howard Ball

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Marshall, Thurgood

Thurgood Marshall

The first African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court , Thurgood Marshall is also remembered as the greatest civil rights lawyer of his time. During the 1940s and 1950s, he won almost every civil rights case he argued before the Supreme Court in his fight for justice and equality for African Americans.

Marshall was born on July 2, 1908. He grew up in a middle-class neighborhood. Both parents worked, his mother as a teacher and his father at a variety of jobs. Marshall was a poor student who frequently misbehaved in class. After high school, Marshall attended Lincoln University, hoping to become a dentist. His study habits did not improve in college. He failed a class and was expelled twice.

In 1929, Marshall's life turned around. He married Vivian Burey and returned to Lincoln to graduate with honors in 1930. Marshall then went to law school at Howard University. Howard was a major center for black scholars, and Marshall studied with the best teachers. Three years later, he graduated at the top of his class.

Becomes lawyer for the NAACP

In 1933, Marshall opened up his own law office in Baltimore, Maryland . In the fall of 1934, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the major national civil rights organization, had begun a legal battle to attack racial segregation (the separation of people of different races). Marshall offered at once to help the organization, and he took on a major civil rights case within a few months. In Murray v. Pearson (1935), Marshall argued before a Maryland court that the University of Maryland Law School could not prevent a black student from enrolling. The court agreed. Over the next few years, Marshall became known as a lawyer who studied carefully for his cases and argued them with common sense.

In 1936, Marshall joined the NAACP's legal office in New York. Two years later, at age thirty, he was named the organization's chief counsel, or top lawyer. In his new position, Marshall had to travel around the country arguing cases. This was especially dangerous in the South, where Marshall's life was threatened many times because he tried to end discrimination. Of the thirty-two cases he argued for the NAACP before the Supreme Court, he won twenty-nine.

Fights for equal education

The NAACP's main goal was to end racial segregation in public schools. (See Desegregation of Public Schools .) In 1896, the Supreme Court had decided in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” public schools for blacks and whites were legal under the U.S. Constitution . In practice, however, the separate schools maintained for blacks and whites were rarely equal. Black children often received a poorer education, especially in the South. Marshall and the NAACP fought against this inequality. In the early 1950s, Marshall won a number of cases that ended racial discrimination in colleges and universities. But his greatest victory came in 1954 when he argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court. The court ruled that separate public schools were harmful to black children and that this violated the constitutional rights of black children.

Mr. Civil Rights

Marshall became known as “Mr. Civil Rights” for his heroic court battles against racism and segregation. But he did not agree with the methods of the new civil rights movement that emerged in the mid-1950s. African Americans had become tired of waiting for the courts to rule, and they had seen that the courts did not have the power to enforce their rulings. Civil rights leaders began to take their struggle to the streets, using methods of civil disobedience and nonviolent protest. Marshall feared that the new methods would result in white violence and the oppression of blacks. He believed firmly that the law could bring about racial integration (mixing of the races), and he continued to press case after case through the courts toward that goal.

Becomes a Supreme Court justice

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63) selected Marshall to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, an important court just below the Supreme Court. There was a great stir over the appointment of an African American to the federal appeals bench. Southern Democrats in Congress fought against Marshall's appointment, but after nearly a year of delay and attacks he was confirmed. He held this post until 1965.

President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973; served 1963–69) then named him solicitor general (assistant to the attorney general, the chief lawyer for the federal government). He was the first African American to be placed in this position. Two years later, Johnson nominated Marshall to become a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Marshall served honorably on the high court for almost twenty-four years. He believed that a task of judges was to try to ensure that all persons have the possibility of living in a “just and humane society.” He believed that all persons have the right to be free of discrimination and that everyone should have access to decent education, housing, and jobs. He also believed that, in order to maintain and protect these valued liberties, the courts had to be available to all persons, regardless of their financial status. He was very critical in cases in which he felt the Supreme Court ignored the circumstances of the impoverished.

Marshall retired in June 1991 at the age of eighty-two. He died on January 24, 1993, in Bethesda, Maryland.

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Marshall, Thurgood

MARSHALL, Thurgood

(b. 2 July 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland; d. 24 January 1993 in Bethesda, Maryland), pioneering civil rights attorney who fought tirelessly for the equal treatment of all Americans under the law and who was the first African-American justice to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Marshall was the elder of two sons of William Canfield Marshall and Norma Williams. His father, a waiter at a "whites only" yacht club on Chesapeake Bay, and his mother, a teacher at a segregated elementary school, instilled in Marshall an appreciation for the importance of pride, humility, justice, equality, and the pursuit of excellence. From his father, Marshall learned the value of a rebellious spirit. Later in his life, Marshall recalled his father's admonishment to both his sons: "If anyone calls you a nigger, you not only got my permission to fight him, you got my orders to fight him." Thankfully, Marshall was largely insulated from the sting of racism during his childhood in Baltimore, where his family lived in a modest but comfortable home on Druid Hill Avenue. As a boy, he routinely played with both black and white children.

An undistinguished scholar in the public schools of Baltimore, Marshall later described himself as something of a "cutup" who was often punished by being banished to the school's basement to memorize a passage from the U.S. Constitution. After graduation from high school, he enrolled at Lincoln University in the rolling countryside of Pennsylvania's Chester County, not far from Philadelphia. Graduating with honors in 1930, Marshall was denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School on the basis of race, a policy he later challenged successfully on behalf of another black student. He enrolled instead at Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., from which he graduated first in his class in 1933. Marshall married Vivian Burey in 1929; she died in 1955 after a long illness. They had no children. He remarried a year later to Cecilia A. Suyat, a secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), with whom he had two sons.

Returning to his hometown after graduation, Marshall set up a private practice specializing in civil rights and criminal law. He also served as counsel to the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, a position that soon brought him to the attention of Arthur Springarn, the organization's national president. In 1936 he moved to New York City to serve as assistant to the NAACP's chief counsel, two years after which he was named to replace the retiring chief counsel. From 1940 until 1961, Marshall served as director of the NAACP's legal defense and educational fund. During this period he was the chief strategist of the organization's legal assault against racial discrimination, winning twenty-nine of thirty-two such cases argued before the Supreme Court. Marshall captured national attention in the mid-1950s when he successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education before the high court. The Court's decision struck down the legal justification for "separate but equal" public school facilities and, more than any other single event, laid the groundwork for the civil rights struggle of the late 1950s and 1960s.

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy nominated Marshall for a federal judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (an area covering New York, Vermont, and Connecticut). Southern segregationists in the Senate pulled out all the stops in their unsuccessful effort to block Marshall's confirmation, a process that took nearly a year. In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson named Marshall solicitor general, in which position he argued cases on behalf of the federal government before the Supreme Court. Of the nineteen cases he argued before the high court over the next two years, Marshall won fourteen. Thurgood's most famous case as solicitor general was Miranda v. Arizona, in which he argued successfully that law enforcement officers must inform all criminal suspects of their constitutional rights.

President Johnson in 1967 nominated Marshall to fill a Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Tom Clark. Despite violent opposition from four southern members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Marshall eventually was confirmed by a vote of sixty-nine to eleven in the full Senate. He took his seat on the high court on 2 October 1967 and quickly established himself as the Court's most outspoken member on matters of racial justice. Juan Williams, writing in Ebony magazine, said of Marshall: "Throughout his time on the Court, Marshall has remained a strong advocate of individual rights.… He has remained a conscience on the bench, never wavering in his devotion to ending discrimination." Former Justice William Brennan, one of Marshall's liberal allies on the Court, later told Ebony: "The only time Thurgood may make people uncomfortable, and perhaps it's when they should be made uncomfortable, is when he'll take off in a given case that he thinks … is another expression of racism." Six years after his nomination of Marshall to the high court, Johnson said of his decision that it was "the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man, and the right place."

In his early years on the Supreme Court, liberals dominated the nation's highest judicial panel, a comfortable environment for Marshall, who was an avowed liberal on most issues. He developed a particularly close relationship with some of his fellow liberals on the bench, namely Brennan and William O. Douglas. For his first several years on the high court, Marshall cast few dissenting votes. Among the more important of Marshall's majority decisions during the 1960s were Amalgamated Food Employees Union v. Logan Valley Plaza in 1968 and Stanley v. Georgia in 1969. In the former case, the majority ruled that striking union members could not be barred from picketing at a shopping center, which the Court held was a "public forum." In Stanley v. Georgia, the Court held that the private possession of pornography could not be subject to prosecution. In his written contribution to the majority opinion, Marshall observed: "If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch."

Marshall ruled with the majority in Roe v. Wade that a woman has the right to an abortion without interference from the government in the first trimester of pregnancy, contending that it is part of her "right to privacy." Years after the Court's landmark decision legalizing abortion, internal Court memos revealed an exchange between Marshall and Justice Harry A. Blackmun in which Marshall expressed concern that Blackmun's proposal focused too much attention on the end of the first thirteen weeks of pregnancy, thus allowing the states too much control after the first trimester. In response Blackmun modified the majority opinion somewhat, altering it to say that after approximately the first trimester, states could regulate abortion to protect the mother's health.

Throughout his years on the Supreme Court, Marshall fought vigorously against capital punishment. During one notable death penalty argument, Justice William H. Rehnquist suggested that the repeated appeals of an inmate had cost taxpayers too much money. Marshall interrupted Rehnquist's argument to say: "It would have been cheaper to shoot him right after he was arrested, wouldn't it?" Outside the courtroom of the high court, Marshall enjoyed a reputation as a master storyteller with an earthy sense of humor. Of his colleague's storytelling skills, Justice Brennan wrote in the Harvard Law Review: "The locales are varied—from dusty courtrooms in the Deep South, to a confrontation with General MacArthur in the Far East, to the drafting sessions for the Kenyan Constitution." According to Brennan, Marshall's stories, while designed to entertain, served a deeper purpose. Brennan saw the tales as Marshall's way to preserve the past while removing some of the period's less pleasant memories. "They are also a form of education for the rest of us. Surely, Justice Marshall recognized that the stories made us—his colleagues—confront walks of life we had never known."

According to Marshall's obituary in the New York Times, many of his stories recounted the dangers and hostility that he had experienced as a civil rights lawyer, traveling thousands of miles throughout the American South representing indigent black clients and unpopular causes. In one such story, Marshall told of being arrested in Tennessee on trumped-up drunk-driving charges shortly after he and a colleague had won acquittal for a black defendant. According to Marshall's story, he was brought before a magistrate who told him: "If you're not drunk, will you take my test? Will you blow in my face? I'm a teetotaler, and I can smell the least bit of whiskey." Marshall, who stood six feet, two inches tall and weighed more than two hundred pounds, said of the magistrate: "He was a short man. I put my hands on his shoulders and breathed just as hard as I could into the man's face." The case against Marshall was quickly dismissed. In a postscript to his story, Marshall added, "We drove to Nashville. And then, boy, I really wanted a drink!"

In 1973 Marshall dissented from the Court's majority opinion in San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, which held that the property tax system used by Texas and a number of other states to finance public education did not violate the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection. Under such systems, school districts with generous tax bases can afford to provide better schools than less wealthy districts. In his dissent Marshall accused the majority of an "unsupportable acquiescence in a system which deprives children in their earliest years of the chance to reach their full potential as citizens." Arguing that the right to an education should be considered a "fundamental" constitutional right, Marshall contended that state policies that have the effect of discriminating on the basis of wealth should be subject to especially searching judicial scrutiny. He wrote: "In my judgment, the right of every American to an equal start in life … is far too vital to permit state discrimination on grounds as tenuous as those presented by this record."

The 1980s saw marked changes in the makeup of the Court, as Republican administrations added more conservative justices to the judicial panel. Despite finding himself in the Court's ever-shrinking liberal minority, Marshall publicly declared his intention to serve out his lifetime appointment. As time went on, however, he grew increasingly unhappy with the policies of the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush and new rulings that he felt seriously eroded earlier civil rights gains. Even more frustrating to Marshall was what he saw as a lack of understanding among his fellow justices about the effects of racism on American society as a whole. Failing health finally forced Marshall to step down from the Supreme Court in 1991. He died of heart failure at the age of eighty-four.

A major figure in American public life for more than half a century, Thurgood Marshall was responsible for mapping out the legal strategy that brought to an end the era of government-sanctioned segregation in the United States. In 1967 he became the first African American to sit on the Supreme Court, a position in which he remained for twenty-four years. During more than two decades as director and counsel of the NAACP's legal defense and educational fund, Marshall decided to take the struggle for equal rights to the courts. It was before the Supreme Court in 1954 that Marshall won his greatest legal victory in Brown v. Board of Education. That unanimous decision by the high court struck down the "separate but equal" system of racial separation in effect in the public schools of twenty-one states. Even more important, it laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and 1960s.

An unabashed liberal during his quarter century as a Supreme Court justice, Marshall was a strong advocate of individual rights, never wavering in his dedication to the elimination of discrimination in all its varied forms. Interviewed by People, Benjamin Hooks, the former executive director of the NAACP, said of Marshall: "It's my belief that without Thurgood Marshall, we would still be riding in the back of the bus, going to separate schools, and drinking 'colored' water."

Further insight into the life and career of Thurgood Marshall may be found in Lisa Aldred, Thurgood Marshall (1991); Randall Walton Bland, Private Pressure on Public Law: The Legal Career of Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1934–1991 (1993); Joseph Nazel, Thurgood Marshall: Supreme Court Justice (1993); Mark V. Tushnet, Making Constitutional Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1961–1991 (1997), and, as editor, Thurgood Marshall: His Speeches, Writings, Arguments, Opinions, and Reminiscences (2001); and Mark Rowh, Thurgood Marshall: Civil Rights Attorney and Supreme Court Justice (2002). An obituary is in the New York Times (25 Jan. 1993).

Don Amerman

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