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 first African-American Supreme Court Justice in the history of the United States.
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Thurgood Marshall biography. Born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908, Thurgood Marshall was the grandson of a slave. His father, William Marshall, instilled in him from youth an appreciation for the United States Constitution and the rule of law. After completing high school in 1925, Thurgood followed his brother, William Aubrey Marshall ...
- Early life and education
- Early career
- Later career
Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland to William Marshall, railroad porter, who later worked on the staff of Gibson Island Club, a white-only country club and Norma Williams, a school teacher. One of his great-grandfathers had been taken as a slave from the Congo to Maryland where he was eventually freed. Marshall graduated from Lincoln University in 1930 and applied to University of Maryland Law School he was denied admission because the school was still segregated at that time. So Marshall matriculated to Howard University Law School where he graduated first in his class and met his mentor, Charles Hamilton Huston, with whom he enjoyed a lifelong friendship. In an interview published in 1992 in the American Bar Association Journal, Marshall wrote that Charlie Houston insisted that we be social engineers rather than lawyers, a mantra that he upheld and personified.
Immediately after graduation, Marshall opened a law office in Baltimore and in the early 1930s, he represented the local NAACP chapter in a successful lawsuit that challenged the University of Maryland Law School over its segregation policy. In addition, he successfully brought lawsuits that integrated other state universities. In 1936, Marshall became the NAACPs chief legal counsel. The NAACPs initial goal was to funnel equal resources to black schools. Marshall successfully challenged the board to only litigate cases that would address the heart of segregation.
After founding the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1940, Marshall became the key strategist in the effort to end racial segregation, in particular meticulously challenging Plessy v. Ferguson , the Court-sanctioned legal doctrine that called for separate but equal structures for white and blacks. Marshall won a series of court decisions that gradually struck down that doctrine, ultimately leading to Brown v. Board of Education , which he argued before the Supreme Court in 1952 and 1953, finally overturning separate but equal and acknowledging that segregation greatly diminished students self-esteem. Asked by Justice Felix Frankfurter during the argument what he meant by equal, Mr. Marshall replied, Equal means getting the same thing, at the same time, and in the same place.
In 1957 LDF, led by Marshall, became an entirely separate entity from the NAACP with its own leadership and board of directors and has remained a separate organization to this day.
In 1961, President Kennedy nominated Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in which he wrote 112 opinions, none of which was overturned on appeal. Four years later, he was appointed by President Johnson to be solicitor general and in 1967 President Johnson nominated him to the Supreme Court to which he commented: I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband. Of the appointment President Johnson later that Marshalls nomination was the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place.
As a Supreme Court Justice, he became increasingly dismayed and disappointed as the courts majority retreated from remedies he felt were necessary to address remnants of Jim Crow. In his Bakke dissent, he wrote: In light of the sorry history of discrimination and its devastating impact on the lives of Negroes, bringing the Negro into the mainstream of American life should be a state interest of the highest order. To fail to do so is to insure that America will forever remain a divided society.
In particular, Marshall fervently dissented in cases in which the Supreme Court upheld death sentences; he wrote over 150 opinions dissenting from cases in which the Court refused to hear death penalty appeals. Among Marshalls salient majority opinions for the Supreme Court were: Amalgamated Food Employees Union v. Logan Valley Plaza, in 1968, which determined that a mall was public forum and unable to exclude picketers; Stanley v. Georgia, in 1969, held that pornography, when owned privately, could not be prosecuted. 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; and Bounds v. Smith, which held that state prison systems must provide their inmates with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law. Marshalls status as a pillar of the Civil Rights Movement is confirmed and upheld by LDF and other organizations who strive to uphold the principals of civil rights and racial justice. His legacy cannot be overstated: he worked diligently and tirelessly to end what was Americas official doctrine of separate-but-equal.
Thurgood Marshall was a successful civil rights attorney, the first African American Supreme Court justice and a prominent advocate for racial equality.
Jan 24, 1993 · Thurgood Marshall, lawyer and civil rights activist who was the first African American member of the U.S. Supreme Court, serving as an associate justice from 1967 to 1991. As an attorney, he successfully argued before the Supreme Court the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954).
- Who Was Thurgood Marshall?
- Early Life and Family
- Court Cases
- Circuit Court Judge and Solicitor General
- Supreme Court Justice
- Personal Life and Wife
- Legacy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X
Thurgood Marshall was an American lawyer who was appointed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1967. He was the first African American to hold the position and served for 24 years, until 1991. Marshall studied law at Howard University. As counsel to the NAACP, he utilized the judiciary to champion equality for African Americans. In 1954, he won the Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the Supreme Court ended racial segregation in public schools.
Marshall was born on July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, Maryland. His father, William Marshall, was the grandson of an enslaved person who worked as a steward at an exclusive club, and his mother, Norma, was a kindergarten teacher. One of William's favorite pastimes was to listen to cases at the local courthouse before returning home to rehash the lawyers' arguments with his sons. Thurgood later recalled, "Now you want to know how I got involved in law? I don't know. The nearest I can get is that my dad, my brother and I had the most violent arguments you ever heard about anything. I guess we argued five out of seven nights at the dinner table."
Marshall attended Baltimore's Colored High and Training School (later renamed Frederick Douglass High School), where he was an above-average student and put his finely honed skills of argument to use as a star member of the debate team. The teenage Marshall was also something of a mischievous troublemaker. His greatest high school accomplishment, memorizing the entire United States Constitution, was actually a teacher's punishment for misbehaving in class. After graduating from high school in 1926, Marshall attended Lincoln University, a historically Black college in Pennsylvania. There, he joined a remarkably distinguished student body that included Kwame Nkrumah, the future president of Ghana, poet Langston Hughes and jazz singer Cab Calloway. After graduating from Lincoln with honors in 1930, Marshall applied to the University of Maryland Law School. Despite being overqualified academically, Marshall was rejected because of his race. This firsthand experience with discrimination...
In 1934, Marshall began working for the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1936, Marshall moved to New York City to work full time as legal counsel for the NAACP. Over several decades, Marshall argued and won a variety of cases to strike down many forms of legalized racism, helping to inspire the American civil rights movement.
In 1961, newly-elected President John F. Kennedyappointed Marshall as a judge for the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Serving as a circuit court judge over the next four years, Marshall issued more than 100 decisions, none of which was overturned by the Supreme Court. In 1965, Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, appointed Marshall to serve as the first Black U.S. solicitor general, the attorney designated to argue on behalf of the federal government before the Supreme Court. During his two years as solicitor general, Marshall won 14 of the 19 cases that he argued before the Supreme Court.
In 1967, President Johnson nominated Marshall to serve on the bench before which he had successfully argued so many times before the United States Supreme Court. On October 2, 1967, Marshall was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice, becoming the first African American to serve on the nation's highest court. Marshall joined a liberal Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, which aligned with Marshall's views on politics and the Constitution. As a Supreme Court justice, Marshall consistently supported rulings upholding strong protection of individual rights and liberal interpretations of controversial social issues. He was part of the majority that ruled in favor of the right to abortion in the landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade, among several other cases. In the 1972 case Furman v. Georgia, which led to a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, Marshall articulated his opinion that the death penalty was unconstitutional in all circumstances. Throughout Marshall's 24-year tenu...
Marshall married Vivian "Buster" Burey in 1929, and the couple remained married until her death in 1955. Shortly thereafter, Marshall married Cecilia Suyat, his secretary at the NAACP. The couple had two sons together, Thurgood Jr. and John Marshall.
Marshall stands alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm Xas one of the greatest and most important figures of the American civil rights movement. Although he may be the least popularly celebrated of the three, Marshall was arguably the most instrumental in the movement's achievements toward racial equality. Marshall's strategy of attacking racial inequality through the courts represented a third way of pursuing racial equality, more pragmatic than King's soaring rhetoric and less polemical than Malcolm X's strident separatism. In the aftermath of Marshall's death, an obituary read: "We make movies about Malcolm X, we get a holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, but every day we live with the legacy of Justice Thurgood Marshall."
Jul 08, 2020 · In the 1930s, Thurgood Marshall was a hero among Black communities in the South. At a time when lynching, segregation, and racist laws were used to keep Black people separate, terrified, impoverished, and very much unequal, watching a Black lawyer not only confront all-white juries, prosecutors, and judges but actually win was inspiring.