|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States|
August 30, 1967 –October 1, 1991
|Nominated by||Lyndon B. Johnson|
|Preceded by||Tom C. Clark|
|Succeeded by||Clarence Thomas|
|32nd Solicitor General of the United States|
August 23, 1965 –August 30, 1967
|President||Lyndon B. Johnson|
|Preceded by||Archibald Cox|
|Succeeded by||Erwin Griswold|
|Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit|
October 5, 1961 –August 23, 1965
|Nominated by||John F. Kennedy|
|Preceded by||Seat established|
|Succeeded by||Wilfred Feinberg|
July 2, 1908
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
|Died||January 24, 1993 84) (aged|
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
(m. 1929;died 1955)
|Children|| Thurgood Marshall Jr. |
John W. Marshall
|Education|| Lincoln University, Pennsylvania (BA)|
Howard University (LLB)
Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an American lawyer and civil rights activist who served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the Court's first African-American justice. Prior to his judicial service, he successfully argued several cases before the Supreme Court, including Brown v. Board of Education .
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Marshall graduated from the Howard University School of Law in 1933. He established a private legal practice in Baltimore before founding the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where he served as executive director. In that position, he argued several cases before the Supreme Court, including Smith v. Allwright , Shelley v. Kraemer , and Brown v. Board of Education , the latter of which held that racial segregation in public education is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Four years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall as the United States Solicitor General. In 1967, Johnson successfully nominated Marshall to succeed retiring Associate Justice Tom C. Clark as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Marshall retired during the administration of President George H. W. Bush, and was succeeded by Clarence Thomas.
Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 2, 1908. He was descended from enslaved peoples on both sides of his family.His original name was Thoroughgood, but he shortened it to Thurgood. His father, William Canfield Marshall, worked as a railroad porter, and his mother, Norma Arica Williams, worked as a teacher. Marshall's parents instilled in him an appreciation for the United States Constitution and the rule of law.
Marshall first learned how to debate from his father, who took Marshall and his brother to watch court cases; they would later debate what they had seen. The family also debated current events after dinner. Marshall said that although his father never told him to become a lawyer, he "turned me into one. He did it by teaching me to argue, by challenging my logic on every point, by making me prove every statement I made."
Marshall attended Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore and was placed in the class with the best students. He graduated a year early in 1925 with a B-grade average, and placed in the top third of the class. He attended Lincoln University, a historically black university in Pennsylvania. It is commonly reported[ who? ] that he intended to study medicine and become a dentist.[ citation needed ] But according to his application to Lincoln University, Marshall said his goal was to become a lawyer. Among his classmates were poet Langston Hughes and musician Cab Calloway. Initially he did not take his studies seriously, and was suspended twice for hazing and pranks against fellow students. He was not politically active at first, becoming a "star" of the debating team.
In his first year, Marshall opposed the integration of African-American professors at the university.Hughes later described Marshall as "rough and ready, loud and wrong". In his second year, Marshall participated in a sit-in protest against segregation at a local movie theater. That year, he was initiated as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first fraternity founded by and for blacks.
In September 1929, Marshall married Vivien Buster Burey and began to take his studies seriously, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in American literature and philosophy in 1930.
Marshall wanted to study in his hometown law school, the University of Maryland School of Law, but did not apply because of the school's policy of segregation. Marshall attended Howard University School of Law, where he worked harder than he had at Lincoln. His mother had to pawn her wedding and engagement rings to pay the tuition. His views on discrimination were strongly influenced by the dean, Charles Hamilton Houston.Marshall graduated from Howard Law in 1933 ranked first in his class with an LL.B. magna cum laude .
After graduating from law school, Marshall started a private law practice in Baltimore. He began his 25-year affiliation with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1934 by representing the organization in the law school discrimination suit Murray v. Pearson . In 1936, Marshall became part of the national staff of the NAACP.
In Murray v. Pearson , Marshall represented Donald Gaines Murray, a black Amherst College graduate with excellent credentials, who was denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School because of segregation. Black students in Maryland wanting to study law had to attend segregated establishments, Morgan College, the Princess Anne Academy, or out-of-state black institutions. Using the strategy developed by Nathan Margold, Marshall argued that Maryland's segregation policy violated the "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson because the state did not provide a comparable educational opportunity at a state-run black institution.The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled against the state of Maryland and its Attorney General, who represented the University of Maryland, stating, "Compliance with the Constitution cannot be deferred at the will of the state. Whatever system is adopted for legal education must furnish equality of treatment now."
At the age of 32, Marshall won U.S. Supreme Court case Chambers v. Florida , 309 U.S. 227 (1940). That same year, he founded and became the executive director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.As the head of the Legal Defense Fund, he argued many other civil rights cases before the Supreme Court, most of them successfully, including Smith v. Allwright , 321 U.S. 649 (1944); Shelley v. Kraemer , 334 U.S. 1 (1948); Sweatt v. Painter , 339 U.S. 629 (1950); and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents , 339 U.S. 637 (1950). His most historic case as a lawyer was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka , 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" public education, as established by Plessy v. Ferguson , was not applicable to public education because it could never be truly equal. In total, Marshall won 29 out of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.
During the 1950s, Thurgood Marshall developed a friendly relationship with J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In 1956, for example, he privately praised Hoover's campaign to discredit T. R. M. Howard, a maverick civil rights leader from Mississippi. During a national speaking tour, Howard criticized the FBI's failure to seriously investigate cases such as the 1955 killers of George W. Lee and Emmett Till. In a private letter to Hoover, Marshall "attacked Howard as a 'rugged individualist' who did not speak for the NAACP." '"Two years earlier, Howard had arranged for Marshall to deliver a well-received speech at a rally of his Regional Council of Negro Leadership in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, only days before the Brown decision. According to historians David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, "Marshall's disdain for Howard was almost visceral. [He] 'disliked Howard's militant tone and maverick stance' and 'was well aware that Hoover's attack served to take the heat off the NAACP and provided opportunities for closer collaboration [between the NAACP and the FBI] in civil rights.
President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1961 to a new seat created on May 19, 1961, by 75 Stat. 80. A group of Senators from the South, led by Mississippi's James Eastland, held up his confirmation, so he served for the first several months under a recess appointment. Marshall remained on that court until 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to be the United States Solicitor General, the first African American to hold the office.At the time, this made him the highest-ranking black government official in American history, surpassing Robert C. Weaver, Johnson's first secretary of housing and urban development. As Solicitor General, he won 14 out of the 19 cases that he argued for the government and called it "the best job I've ever had."
On June 13, 1967, President Johnson nominated Marshall to the Supreme Court following the retirement of Justice Tom C. Clark, saying that this was "the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place." Marshall was confirmed as an Associate Justice by a Senate vote of 69–11 on August 30, 1967 (32–1 in the Senate Republican Conference and 37–10 in the Senate Democratic Caucus) with 20 members voting present or abstaining.He was the 96th person to hold the position, and the first African American.
Marshall once bluntly described his legal philosophy as this: "You do what you think is right and let the law catch up",a statement which his conservative detractors argued was a sign of his embracement of judicial activism.
Marshall served on the Court for the next 24 years, compiling a liberal record that included strong support for Constitutional protection of individual rights, especially the rights of criminal suspects. His most frequent ally on the Court (the pair rarely voted at odds) was Justice William Brennan, who consistently joined him in supporting abortion rights and opposing the death penalty. Brennan and Marshall concluded in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was, in all circumstances, unconstitutional, and never accepted the legitimacy of Gregg v. Georgia , which ruled four years later that the death penalty was constitutional in some circumstances. Thereafter, Brennan or Marshall dissented from every denial of certiorari in a capital case and from every decision upholding a sentence of death.[ citation needed ]
In 1987, Marshall gave a controversial speech on the occasion of the bicentennial celebrations of the Constitution of the United States.Marshall stated:
... the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war and major social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today.
In conclusion, Marshall stated:
Some may more quietly commemorate the suffering, struggle, and sacrifice that has triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original document, and observe the anniversary with hopes not realized and promises not fulfilled. I plan to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution as a living document, including the Bill of Rights and other amendments protecting individual freedoms and human rights.
Although best remembered for jurisprudence in the fields of civil rights and criminal procedure, Marshall made significant contributions to other areas of the law as well. In Teamsters v. Terry , he held that the Seventh Amendment entitled the plaintiff to a jury trial in a suit against a labor union for breach of duty of fair representation. In TSC Industries, Inc. v. Northway, Inc. , he articulated a formulation for the standard of materiality in United States securities law that is still applied and used today. In Cottage Savings Association v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue , he weighed in on the income tax consequences of the savings and loan crisis, permitting a savings and loan association to deduct a loss from an exchange of mortgage participation interests. In Personnel Administrator MA v. Feeney , Marshall wrote a dissent saying that a law that gave hiring preference to veterans over non-veterans was unconstitutional because of its inequitable impact on women.
Among his many law clerks were attorneys who went on to become judges themselves, such as Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; Judge Ralph Winter of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan; as well as notable law professors Susan Low Bloch, Elizabeth Garrett (former President of Cornell University), Paul Gewirtz, Dan Kahan, Randall L. Kennedy, Eben Moglen, Rick Pildes, Louis Michael Seidman,Cass Sunstein, and Mark Tushnet (editor of Thurgood Marshall: His Speeches, Writings, Arguments, Opinions and Reminiscences); and law school deans Paul Mahoney of University of Virginia School of Law, Martha Minow of Harvard Law School, and Richard Revesz of New York University School of Law.
Marshall retired from the Supreme Court in 1991 due to declining health. In his retirement press conference on June 28, 1991, he expressed his view that race should not be a factor in choosing his successor, and he denied circulating claims that he was retiring because of frustration or anger over the conservative direction in which the Court was heading.He was reportedly unhappy that it would fall to President George H. W. Bush to name his replacement. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Marshall.
Marshall died of heart failure at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on January 24, 1993, at the age of 84. After he lay in repose in the Great Hall of the United States Supreme Court Building, he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. [ citation needed ]He was survived by his second wife and their two sons.
Marshall left all his personal papers and notes to the Library of Congress. The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, opened Marshall's papers for immediate use by scholars, journalists, and the public, insisting that this was Marshall's intent. The Marshall family and several of his close associates disputed this claim.The decision to make the documents public was supported by the American Library Association. A list of the archived manuscripts is available.
Numerous memorials have been dedicated to Marshall. An 8-foot (2.4 m) statue stands in Lawyers Mall adjacent to the Maryland State House. The statue, dedicated on October 22, 1996, depicts Marshall as a young lawyer and is placed just a few feet (a meter or two) away from where stood the Old Maryland Supreme Court Building, the court where Marshall argued discrimination cases leading up to the Brown decision. The primary office building for the federal court system, located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., is named in honor of Marshall and contains a statue of him in the atrium.[ citation needed ]
In 1976, Texas Southern University renamed its law school after the sitting justice.
In 1980, the University of Maryland School of Law opened a new library, which it named the Thurgood Marshall Law Library.
In 2000, the historic Twelfth Street YMCA Building located in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C., was renamed the Thurgood Marshall Center.[ citation needed ]
The major airport serving Baltimore and the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., was renamed the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on October 1, 2005.[ citation needed ]
The 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church added Marshall to the church's liturgical calendar of "Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints", designating May 17 as his feast day.
His membership of the Lincoln University fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha was to have been memorialized by a sculpture by Alvin Pettit in 2013.
The University of California, San Diego renamed its Third College after Marshall in 1993.
Marshall Middle School, in Olympia, Washington, is also named after Marshall, as is Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington, D.C.[ citation needed ]
In 2006, Thurgood , a one-man play written by George Stevens Jr., premiered at the Westport Country Playhouse, starring James Earl Jones and directed by Leonard Foglia.Later it opened Broadway at the Booth Theatre on April 30, 2008, starring Laurence Fishburne. On February 24, 2011, HBO screened a filmed version of the play which Fishburne performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The production was described by the Baltimore Sun as "one of the most frank, informed and searing discussions of race you will ever see on TV." On February 16, 2011, a screening of the film was hosted by the White House as part of its celebrations of Black History Month. A painting of Marshall by Chaz Guest has hung at the White House. Marshall is portrayed by Chadwick Boseman in the 2017 film Marshall , which revolves around the 1941 case of the State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell .
Marshall was married twice. He married Vivian "Buster" Burey in 1929. After her death in February 1955, Marshall married Cecilia Suyat in December of that year. They were married until he died in 1993, having two sons together: Thurgood Marshall Jr., a former top aide to President Bill Clinton; and John W. Marshall, a former United States Marshals Service Director and Virginia Secretary of Public Safety.
In 1993, The Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico institutedthe annual Thurgood Marshall Award, given to the top student in civil rights at each of Puerto Rico's four law schools. It includes a $500 monetary award. The awardees are selected by the Commonwealth's Attorney General.
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But they -- we -- have all been fortunate indeed to have been able to serve in what Thurgood Marshall called 'the best job I've ever had.'
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Seat established by 75 Stat. 80
|Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit |
| Solicitor General of the United States |
Tom C. Clark
| Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States |
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Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950), was a U.S. Supreme Court case that successfully challenged the "separate but equal" doctrine of racial segregation established by the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson. The case was influential in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education four years later.
Irene Amos Morgan, later known as Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, was an African-American woman from Baltimore, Maryland, who was arrested in Middlesex County, Virginia, in 1944 under a state law imposing racial segregation in public facilities and transportation. She was traveling on an interstate bus that operated under federal law and regulations. She refused to give up her seat in what the driver said was the "white section". At the time she worked for a defense contractor on the production line for B-26 Marauders.
Charles Hamilton Houston was a prominent African-American lawyer, Dean of Howard University Law School, and NAACP first special counsel, or Litigation Director. A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School, Houston played a significant role in dismantling Jim Crow laws, especially attacking segregation in schools and racial housing covenants. He earned the title "The Man Who Killed Jim Crow".
Briggs v. Elliott, 342 U.S. 350 (1952), on appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of South Carolina, challenged school segregation in Summerton, South Carolina. It was the first of the five cases combined into Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the famous case in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional by violating the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Following the Brown decision, the district court issued a decree that struck down the school segregation law in South Carolina as unconstitutional and required the state's schools to integrate.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. is a leading United States civil rights organization and law firm based in New York City.
Constance Baker Motley, was a key strategists of the African-American civil rights movement, lawyer, judge, state senator, and Borough President of Manhattan, New York City. Beginning the role before entering law school, Baker Motley acted as a staff attorney for more than twenty years for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She argued 10 landmark civil rights cases in front of the Supreme Court, winning nine. She was a law clerk to Thurgood Marshall arguing the case Brown v. Board of Education. Baker Motley was also the first African-American woman appointed to the federal judiciary, serving as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Judge Motley died on September 28th 2005 in New York City of congestive heart failure.
Jack Greenberg was an American attorney and legal scholar. He was the Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1961 to 1984, succeeding Thurgood Marshall.
Robert Lee Carter was an American lawyer, civil rights activist and a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Fred David Gray is a civil rights attorney, preacher and activist who practices law in Alabama. He litigated several major civil rights cases in Alabama, including some that reached the United States Supreme Court for rulings. He served as the President of the National Bar Association in 1985, and in 2001 was elected as the first African-American President of the Alabama State Bar.
William Henry Hastie Jr. was an American lawyer, judge, educator, public official, and civil rights advocate. He was the first African American to serve as Governor of the United States Virgin Islands, as a federal judge, and as a federal appellate judge. He served as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and previously served as District Judge of the District Court of the Virgin Islands.
Alexander Pierre Tureaud, Sr., known as A. P. Tureaud, was the attorney for the New Orleans chapter of the NAACP during the Civil Rights Movement. With the assistance of Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, A. P. Tureaud filed the lawsuit that successfully ended the system of Jim Crow segregation in New Orleans. That case paved the way for integrating the first two elementary schools in the Deep South.
Separate But Equal is a 1991 American two-part television miniseries depicting the landmark Supreme Court desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, based on the phrase "Separate but equal". The film stars Sidney Poitier as lead NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall, Richard Kiley as Chief Justice Earl Warren, Burt Lancaster as lawyer John W. Davis, Cleavon Little as lawyer and judge Robert L. Carter, and Lynne Thigpen as Ruth Alice Stovall.
Lillie May Carroll Jackson, pioneer civil rights activist, organizer of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP. Invariably known as "Dr. Lillie", "Ma Jackson", and the "mother of the civil rights movement", Lillie May Carroll Jackson pioneered the tactic of non-violent resistance to racial segregation used by Martin Luther King Jr. and others during the early civil rights movement.
Howard University School of Law is one of the professional graduate schools of Howard University. Located in Washington, D.C., it is one of the oldest law schools in the country and the oldest historically black college or university law school in the United States.
John Paul Frank was an American lawyer and scholar involved in landmark civil rights, school desegregation, and criminal procedure cases before the United States Supreme Court.
Vivian "Buster" Burey Marshall was an American civil rights activist and was married for 25 years, until her death, to Thurgood Marshall, lead counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, who also managed Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Following her death, her husband was later appointed as the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
Jawn Ardin Sandifer was an American civil rights attorney, judge and New York State Supreme Court Justice. Sandifer headed the NAACP's New York State branch and was involved in cases, including school segregation. He argued Henderson v. United States (1950) before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Larry S. Gibson is a law professor, lawyer, political organizer, and historian. He currently serves as a professor at the Francis King Carey School of Law in the University of Maryland, Baltimore; where he has been on the faculty for 38 years. Gibson currently serves as council for the firm of Shapiro, Sher, Guinot, and Sandler. He was involved with the legislation that renamed Maryland's major airport, the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and published Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice in 2012.