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*On this date, Thurgood Marshall was born in 1908. He was a Black lawyer and Supreme Court Justice.
Marshall grew up in Baltimore and graduated with high honors from Lincoln University, PA., in 1930. He studied at Howard University Law School and graduated first in his class. In 1936, he became a staff lawyer of the (NAACP). For over 20 years, he served as director and chief counsel for its Legal Defense and Education Fund. Marshall was a key strategist in the legal effort to dismantle racial segregation in housing, voting, and education. He won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court. Marshall’s most significant victory came in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), a case involving racial segregation in public schools.
After his first wife died of cancer, he married Cecilia Suyat in 1955. They had two sons, John and Thurgood Jr. President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Four years later, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him as solicitor general. Johnson turned to Marshall in 1967 to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court.
Marshall was the first Black to serve on the Court. He was an unrepentant liberal whose commitment to equality only expanded during his years of service. He remained true to the values of freedom and equality despite the erosion of the liberal majority on the court that he helped sustain. In one of his last opinions (Dissenting from a conservative majority), Marshall declared, "Power, not reason, is the new currency of this Court's decision-making." He retired in 1991 when his health deteriorated. Marshall died of heart failure in January 1993.
In four years, Marshall wrote 98 opinions (essays explaining the logic and principles underlying a ruling), none of which was reversed by the Supreme Court. His opinions supported academic freedom, the right to a fair trial, and the right of civil rights demonstrators to picket and protest.
Poor health forced him to retire from the Supreme Court in 1991. Thurgood Marshall died of heart failure in Washington, D.C., in January 1993.
Thurgood Marshall, American Revolutionary
by Juan Williams
Three Rivers Press, copyright 1998