28 Days Of Black History Day #18 Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the Court’s 96th justice and its first African American justice.
Before becoming a judge, Marshall was a lawyer who was best known for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education, a decision that desegregated public schools. He served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit after being appointed by President John F. Kennedy and then served as the Solicitor General after being appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. President Johnson nominated him to the United States Supreme Court in 1967.
Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 2, 1908. He was the great-grandson of a slave who was born in the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo; his grandfather was also a slave. His original name was Thoroughgood, but he shortened it to Thurgood in second grade because he disliked spelling it. His father, William Marshall, who was a railroad porter, and his mother Norma, a teacher, instilled in him an appreciation for the United States Constitution and the rule of law.
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. Subsequently he went to Lincoln University. It is commonly reported that he intended to study medicine and become a dentist. But according to his application to Lincoln University, Marshall stated that 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 and in his freshman year opposed the integration of African-American professors at the university. Hughes later described him as “rough and ready, loud and wrong”. In his second year he got involved in a sit-in protest against segregation at a local movie theatre. In this same year, he was initiated as a member of the first black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. His marriage to Vivien Burey in September 1929 encouraged him to take his studies seriously, and he graduated from Lincoln with honors (cum laude) Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, with a major in American literature and philosophy.
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 segregation policy. Marshall instead attended Howard University School of Law, where he worked harder than he had at Lincoln and his views on discrimination were heavily influenced by the dean Charles Hamilton Houston. In 1933 he graduated from there first in his class. Three years later, Marshall would successfully represent his client bringing suit against the University of Maryland Law School for its policy, ending segregation there
After setting up a private practice in Baltimore, Marshall began serving as an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1934.
He won his first major civil rights case, Murray v. Pearson, 169 Md. 478 (1936). This was the first challenge to the “separate but equal” doctrine that was part of the Plessy v. Ferguson decision. His co-counsel on the case, Charles Hamilton Houston, developed the strategy. 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 its segregation policy. Black students in Maryland wanting to study law had to accept one of three options, attend: Morgan College, the Princess Anne Academy, or out-of-state black institutions.
In 1935, Thurgood Marshall argued the case for Murray, showing that neither of the in-state institutions offered a law school and that such schools were entirely unequal in quality to the University of Maryland. Marshall and Houston expected to lose and intended to appeal to the federal courts. 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.” While it was a moral victory, the state court’s ruling had no authority outside Maryland.
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. He was the 96th person to hold the position, and the first African American. President Johnson confidently predicted to one biographer, Doris Kearns Goodwin, that a lot of black baby boys would be named “Thurgood” in honor of this choice.
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 against the government. 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
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 Dan Kahan, Cass Sunstein, Eben Moglen, Susan Low Bloch, Martha Minow, Rick Pildes, Paul Gewirtz, 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, and Richard Revesz of New York University School of Law.
Marshall retired from the Supreme Court in 1991 and was reportedly unhappy that it would fall to President George H. W. Bush to name his replacement. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Marshall.