Thurgood Marshall appointed to Supreme Court

Thurgood Marshall appointed to Supreme Court

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President Lyndon B. Johnson appoints U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Thurgood Marshall to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Associate Justice Tom C. On August 30, after a heated debate, the Senate confirmed Marshall’s nomination by a vote of 69 to 11. Two days later, he was sworn in by Chief Justice Earl Warren, making him the first African American in history to sit on America’s highest court.

READ MORE: Black History Milestones

The great-grandson of slaves, Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1908. In 1933, after studying under the tutelage of civil liberties lawyer Charles H. Houston, he received his law degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1936, he joined the legal division of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), of which Houston was director, and two years later succeeded his mentor in the organization’s top legal post.

As the NAACP’s chief counsel from 1938 to 1961, he argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, successfully challenging racial segregation, most notably in public education. He won 29 of these cases, including a groundbreaking victory in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court ruled that segregation violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and was thus illegal. The decision served as a great impetus for the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and ultimately led to the abolishment of segregation in all public facilities and accommodations.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals, but his nomination was opposed by many Southern senators, and he was not confirmed until the next year. In June 1967, President Johnson nominated him to the Supreme Court, and in late August he was confirmed. During his 24 years on the high court, Associate Justice Marshall consistently challenged discrimination based on race or sex, opposed the death penalty, and supported the rights of criminal defendants. He also defended affirmative action and women’s right to reproductive freedom. As appointments by a largely Republican White House changed the politics of the Court, Marshall found his liberal opinions increasingly in the minority. He retired in 1991, and two years later passed away.

READ MORE: Thurgood Marshall: His Life and Legacy

Thurgood Marshall Appointed Supreme Court Justice

On August 30, 1967, Thurgood Marshall became America’s first African American Supreme Court Justice.

The great-grandson of slaves, Marshall graduated first in his class at Howard University Law School. In 1934, he began a 21-year affiliation with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Marshall was the first director-counsel of the NAACP’s legal defense and education fund.

Marshall won a series of important civil rights cases during the 1930s and won 29 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Based on his impressive record, the United Nations asked Marshall to help draft the constitutions of the emerging African nations of Ghana and what is now Tanzania.

Marshall successfully challenged the “separate but equal” principle in 1954. By persuading the U.S. Supreme Court that there could be no equality when determinations were based solely on skin color, Marshall laid the foundation for desegregation in America.

President Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall the first black solicitor general of the United States in 1965. Two years later, when Supreme Court Associate Justice Tom C. Clark was retiring, President Johnson appointed Marshall to fill his seat. The president proclaimed, it was “the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place.” Marshall’s nomination was controversial at the time and caused a heated debate in the Senate. But on August 30, the Senate confirmed his nomination by a vote of 69 to 11. He was sworn in two days later, making history as the first African American in the nation’s highest court.

During his 24 years as a justice, Marshall fiercely challenged discrimination of all kinds and fought against the death penalty. He also supported the rights of criminal defendants as well as women’s right to abortion. During Marshall’s tenure he contributed to other areas of law including fair representation, securities law, and the savings and loan crisis. According to Marshall, his political philosophy was to “do what you think is right and let the law catch up.” His conservative opponents criticized this as a form of judicial activism. By 1991, Marshall’s liberal ideals left him in the minority amongst a largely Republican-led government, which led to his retirement. He died just two years later.

Celebrating Thurgood Marshall's Appointment To The Supreme Court

37-cent Thurgood Marshall stamp, 2003

By the time Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the United States Supreme Court on this day in 1967, he had already made his mark on the “highest court in the land.”

One of the most influential voices of the African-American civil rights movement, Marshall won more cases before the Supreme Court during his time as chief counsel of the NAACP and as U.S. Solicitor General than any American in history[1].

Nearly all of those cases involved Marshall dismantling the laws of legalized discrimination and creating fairness of opportunities for all.

34-cent Langston Hughes stamp, 2002

Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1925 he enrolled at Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania. One of his classmates at Lincoln was the famous author, Langston Hughes.

Upon graduating Lincoln, he applied to the University of Maryland law school, only to be denied entrance because of his race. And so began Marshall’s crusade against the injustices disguised as “laws” that were all too common in America.

42-cent Charles Hamilton Houston and Walter White stamp, 2009

Marshall enrolled at the Howard University Law School where he forged a relationship with the dean of the institution, Charles Hamilton Houston (pictured at left in the 2009 42c Civil Rights Pioneer issue stamp with Walter White). Houston was a brilliant man who graduated from Harvard law and had dedicated himself to instructing a new generation of African American lawyers with the ability to attack and bring down segregation in America.[2] Thurgood Marshall was his star.

Marshall’s first case out of graduate school was a successful lawsuit leveled against the University of Maryland, this time for not admitting an African American named Donald Gaines Murray. [3] Marshall was just getting warmed up.

He followed Houston to New York to become a staff lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Four years later, he was named chief of the NAACP Legal Defense.

37-cent 1954 Brown v. Board of Education stamp, 2005

In this capacity, Marshall tore down state laws that denied African Americans the right to vote in primaries and provided for “separate but equal” facilities for African Americans at universities.[5] His crowning achievement was his work in the case Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka (commemorated in the 1954 37c stamp at right). Using arguments still studied in law schools today for their excellence, Marshall convinced the Supreme Court to rule that segregation was illegal and unconstitutional since it violated the 14 th amendment.

8-cent Lyndon B. Johnson stamp, 1973

His tireless work in the courthouse championing the cause of those oppressed, sparked the American civil rights movement and garnered Marshall national attention. He was appointed to the US Court of Appeals by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. He worked his way up the federal legal system until President Lyndon B. Johnson (pictured at right in the 1973 8c stamp) appointed him to the Supreme Court on June 13, 1967.

Of appointing Marshall, the first African American to be appointed to the Supreme Court, Johnson said, “I believe it’s the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man, and the right place.”[6] Marshall was officially confirmed by a Senate vote on August 30th, 1967.

During his 24 years of service on the highest court in America, he never backed down from his ongoing battle with discrimination against all people who needed a voice to fight for them. Marshall served on the court until 1991 when he had to step down because of health issues. He passed away on January 24, 1993.

According to author Juan Williams, author of a Marshall biography, Thurgood Marshall did more to erase the color line in America than anyone in history, even moreso than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X: “It was Thurgood Marshall, working through the courts to eradicate the legacy of slavery and destroying the racist segregation system of Jim Crow, who had an even more profound and lasting effect on race relations than either King or X.”[7]

33-cent Martin Luther King Jr. stamp, 1999

33-cent Malcolm X stamp, 1999

While King was captivating a nation through peaceful and passionate calls for equality and Malcolm X was stirring up black pride through fiery words and actions, Marshall could be found in a courthouse, rewriting laws that would open new doors for African Americans all over the country.


Marshall attended Baltimore&aposs 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&aposs 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 Hughesਊnd jazz singer򠲫 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 education made a lasting impression on Marshall and helped determine the future course of his career.

Instead of Maryland, Marshall attended law school in Washington, D.C. at Howard University, another historically Black school. The dean of Howard Law School at the time was the pioneering civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall quickly fell under the tutelage of Houston, a notorious disciplinarian and extraordinarily demanding professor. Marshall recalled of Houston, "He would not be satisfied until he went to a dance on the campus and found all of his students sitting around the wall reading law books instead of partying."

Marshall graduated magna cum laude from Howard in 1933. He briefly attempted to establish his own practice in Baltimore, but without experience, he failed to land any significant cases.

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American to be appointed to the Supreme Court – a major milestone in the cause of civil rights. Marshall left a significant mark on recent American history.

Thurgood Marshall was born on July 2nd, 1908.He was named Thoroughgood by his parents, after his great-grandfather, but he found the Christian name just too much of a mouthful and shortened it to Thurgood. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland.

He graduated from his high school and decided to pursue a career in dentistry. However this quickly changed to law. It was now that he hit a very overt form of racism that pervaded many parts of America. He applied to the University of Maryland’s Law School but was rejected as the college had a policy of segregation. Rejected by this law school, Marshall went to Howard University, Washington DC, instead. At Howard, he graduated with a law degree in 1933. While Marshall was at Howard, he came under the influence of Charles Hamilton Houston, who instilled into Marshall the importance of upholding the Constitution. Houston also pushed home his belief that the 1898 ruling in Plessy v Ferguson that separate but equal was legal, should be overturned.

In 1934, he started to work for the Baltimore NAACP and two years later he joined its national legal staff. His first major case was in 1936 when he represented Donald Gaines Murray, a student, who like Marshall, had been denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School.

Murray had a BA from Amherst College and had the criteria to get a place at the law school. He claimed that his rights as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment had been violated. Marshall won the case.

In 1938, Marshall became the NAACP’s chief legal officer.

Marshall won his first Supreme Court case (Chambers v Florida) in 1940. In the same year, he was appointed Chief Counsel for the NAACP. He built up an enviable record of success – but his most famous case was Brown v Board of Topeka in 1954. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal could not be acceptable as it was clear from the evidence that was presented to the court that schools that taught black children in the south were definitely separate but they were anything but equal. Brown v Topeka made the concept of ‘separate but equal’ illegal.

He was also involved in the Little Rock High School case when in 1958 the court rejected the request by the school board to postpone the immediate desegregation of Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas.

In all his cases in the Supreme Court, Marshall won 29 out of 32 cases.

In 1961, J F Kennedy appointed Marshall to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He served on this until 1965 – though his appointment started as a ‘recess appointment’ as some Senators from the south held up the appointments process.

In 1965, Marshall was appointed Solicitor-General by Lyndon B Johnson. On June 13th, 1967, he was appointed by the same president to the Supreme Court. Johnson stated that

“it was the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place.”

Marshall served as a Supreme Court judge for 24 years. He gained a reputation for being a moderate liberal who was opposed to the death penalty. He also enjoyed a reputation for being a fierce supporter of an individual’s constitutional rights.

On June 27th 1991, Thurgood Marshall retired as a result of ill-health. He died aged 84, on January 24th, 1993.

Thurgood Marshall appointed to Supreme Court - HISTORY

Supreme Court justice and civil rights advocate

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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, at the historically black Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania. His classmates at Lincoln included a distinguished group of future Black leaders such as the poet and author Langston Hughes, the future President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, and musician Cab Calloway. Just before graduation, he married his first wife, Vivian "Buster" Burey. Their twenty-five year marriage ended with her death from cancer in 1955.

In 1930, he applied to the University of Maryland Law School, but was denied admission because he was Black. This was an event that was to haunt him and direct his future professional life. Thurgood sought admission and was accepted at the Howard University Law School that same year and came under the immediate influence of the dynamic new dean, Charles Hamilton Houston, who instilled in all of his students the desire to apply the tenets of the Constitution to all Americans. Paramount in Houston's outlook was the need to overturn the 1898 Supreme Court ruling, Plessy v. Ferguson which established the legal doctrine called, "separate but equal." Marshall's first major court case came in 1933 when he successfully sued the University of Maryland to admit a young African American Amherst University graduate named Donald Gaines Murray. Applauding Marshall's victory, author H.L. Mencken wrote that the decision of denial by the University of Maryland Law School was "brutal and absurd," and they should not object to the "presence among them of a self-respecting and ambitious young Afro-American well prepared for his studies by four years of hard work in a class A college."

Thurgood Marshall followed his Howard University mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston to New York and later became Chief Counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During this period, Mr. Marshall was asked by the United Nations and the United Kingdom to help draft the constitutions of the emerging African nations of Ghana and what is now Tanzania. It was felt that the person who so successfully fought for the rights of America's oppressed minority would be the perfect person to ensure the rights of the White citizens in these two former European colonies. After amassing an impressive record of Supreme Court challenges to state-sponsored discrimination, including the landmark Brown v. Board decision in 1954, President John F. Kennedy appointed Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In this capacity, he wrote over 150 decisions including support for the rights of immigrants, limiting government intrusion in cases involving illegal search and seizure, double jeopardy, and right to privacy issues. Biographers Michael Davis and Hunter Clark note that, "none of his (Marshall's) 98 majority decisions was ever reversed by the Supreme Court." In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson appointed Judge Marshall to the office of U.S. Solicitor General. Before his subsequent nomination to the United States Supreme Court in 1967, Thurgood Marshall won 14 of the 19 cases he argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of the government. Indeed, Thurgood Marshall represented and won more cases before the United States Supreme Court than any other American.

Until his retirement from the highest court in the land, Justice Marshall established a record for supporting the voiceless American. Having honed his skills since the case against the University of Maryland, he developed a profound sensitivity to injustice by way of the crucible of racial discrimination in this country. As an Associate Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall leaves a legacy that expands that early sensitivity to include all of America's voiceless. Justice Marshall died on January 24, 1993.

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Facts about Thurgood Marshall

Thoroughgood Marshall was born July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, Maryland his father was a railroad porter and his mother a schoolteacher. After a brief period in New York City, the family moved to a racially diverse, largely middle class neighborhood in Baltimore called Druid Hill, although he attended segregated schools, graduating from the city's Colored High School in 1924 when he was only 16 years old. (He shortened his name to Thurgood in the second grade.)
Marshall's exposure to the law and the Constitution was unusually early. His father, William Marshall, never attended college, but he was fascinated by court trials and often took his son along with him. Marshall described himself as a "hell raiser" as a child, and while his naturally argumentative nature may have gotten him into a certain amount of trouble, it would prove a useful trait as a lawyer. One of Marshall's punishments for talking too much involved the U.S. Constitution.

"Instead of making us copy out stuff on the blackboard after school when we misbehaved," Marshall later recalled, "our teacher sent us down into the basement to learn parts of the Constitution. I made my way through every paragraph."

These early experiences reinforced many of the deepest convictions that shaped Marshall's professional career, including the importance of education for individual advancement, a deep respect for the legal profession, and the recognition of the bonds of family and community. "None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps," Marshall said later.

Thurgood Marshall while he was a student at Lincoln University. The photo is Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity pledges (Marshall is 2nd from right in middle row).
Thurgood Marshall graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University in 1930. Lincoln University in rural Pennsylvania, is one of the nation's oldest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The school was chartered in 1854 as the Ashmun Institute and described by one of its early presidents as "the first institution found anywhere in the world to provide a higher education in the arts and sciences for male youth of African descent." It was renamed after President Abraham Lincoln in 1866. Among Lincoln's distinguished graduates were Marshall's classmate Langston Hughes musician Cab Calloway Kwame Nkrumah, first leader of an independent Ghana and Nnamdi Azikiwe, first president of Nigeria.
At Lincoln, Marshall's interest in civil rights and the law deepened and he became a star member of the school's debating team, which competed against teams from such powerhouse institutions as Harvard University and Britain's Cambridge University. Marshall also met and married Vivian Burey in 1929, then a student at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
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In 1934, Thurgood Marshall graduated first in his class from Howard University Law School. Marshall wanted to attend the University of Maryland Law School but did not apply after it became clear that he would not be admitted into the segregated institution. The rejection stung deeply, but he refused to be deterred from a legal education by enrolling at one of America's most distinguished HBCUs, Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C. He made the long daily commute from Baltimore to Howard because he couldn't afford housing. His mother pawned her wedding and engagement rings to help pay the tuition. Marshall nevertheless excelled at Howard, graduating first in his class in 1933.
At Howard, Marshall made the most important professional friendship and alliance of his career with Professor Charles Hamilton Houston, who served as an important intellectual father to the 20th-century civil rights movement in the United States.

Houston, a Harvard Law School graduate, later served as chief legal counsel to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a position in which he would later be succeeded by Marshall himself. Houston was the first African American lawyer to win a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Marshall credited Houston, who died in 1950, with devising the basic legal strategy that ultimately succeeded in legal segregation in the United States, specifically the "separate but equal" provisions of the Supreme Court's 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision.

"Charlie Houston insisted that we be social engineers rather than lawyers," Marshall said in a 1992 interview published by the American Bar Association. Referring to Brown v. Board of Education, Marshall said, "The school case was really Charlie's victory. He just never got a chance to see it."

A Career and a Cause
After earning his law degree, Marshall opened a law office in Baltimore in the depths of the Great Depression but quickly found himself in debt by handling civil rights cases for poor clients. In 1934 he went to work for the NAACP. A year later, with Houston as his adviser, Marshall won his first major racial discrimination case, Murray v. Pearson, which ended segregation of the University of Maryland's Law School. The victory over the school that had previously denied him admittance was especially sweet for Marshall, but the decision didn't strike at the heart of segregation since it was won on the grounds that the state of Maryland could not provide a credible "separate but equal" institution for providing African Americans with a legal education.

In 1936 Marshall became a staff NAACP lawyer based in New York two years later, he succeeded Houston as the organization's chief counsel, although the two continued to work closely together. Marshall founded the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 1940. (The Fund became a separate organization in 1957.)
"Under Marshall, the NAACP's legal staff became the model for public interest law firms," wrote one of his biographers, Mark Tushnet. "Marshall was thus one of the first public interest lawyers. His commitment to racial justice led him and his staff to develop ways of thinking about constitutional litigation that have been enormously influential far beyond the areas of segregation and discrimination."

The Long Campaign
Together, Marshall and Houston mapped a long-term strategy to challenge and eradicate segregation in the United States that focused chiefly but not exclusively on education. At the time, the NAACP was devoting much of its resources to equalizing spending and resources for black schools operating in a racially segregated system.

Marshall convinced the NAACP to abandon that approach and said he would accept only cases that challenged segregation itself. The policy shift was controversial within the organization at the time, and several black lawyers who worked with the NAACP in the South resigned, increasing the burden on Marshall and his staff.

For two decades, Marshall traveled constantly, up to 50,000 miles a year, supervising more than 400 cases at a time and often facing the threat of harassment and even physical attack. "I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown for a long time, but never quite made the grade," he commented.

Marshall's record of success in striking down discriminatory and segregationist laws was extraordinary, winning 29 of 32 cases he argued. Among the most significant:

Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938)
argued before the court by Charles Houston, extended the Maryland Murray v. Pearson decision to the entire nation, maintaining that a state with a single law school could not discriminate on the basis of race.

Chambers v. Florida (1940)
reversed the conviction of four black men accused of murder on grounds that excessive police pressure and coercion rendered their confessions inadmissible.

Smith v. Allwright (1944)
prohibited "whites only" primary elections that selected candidates for the general election. Marshall considered this case one of his most important victories, according to biographer Juan Williams.

Morgan v. Virginia (1946)
barred segregation in interstate bus transportation. Marshall also prevailed on the court to desegregate bus terminals who served interstate passengers. The Morgan decision served as the legal basis for the celebrated "Freedom Rides" of the early 1960s.

Patton v. Mississippi (1947)
maintained that juries from which African Americans had been systematically excluded could not convict black defendants.

Shelly v. Kraemer (1948)
declared that racially restrictive covenants preventing the sale of property to African Americans or other minorities could not be enforced by the state and were therefore null and void.
Sweatt v. Painter (1950)
held that the University of Texas School of Law could not deny admittance to an African American student since the separate law school for blacks did not provide anything approaching "substantive equality."

McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents (1950)
held that institutions of higher learning could not discriminate solely on the basis of race to meet the state's segregation requirements. The case involved an African American graduate student at the University of Oklahoma who was separated from the other students in the classroom and elsewhere on campus.

Along with his unwavering commitment to racial equality, legal scholarship, and intense preparation, Marshall commanded the courtroom with an orator's eloquence and a storyteller's charm. His later Supreme Court colleague William Brennan wrote of Marshall's stories, "They are brought to life by all the tricks of the storyteller's art: the fluid voice, the mobile eyebrows, the sidelong glance, the pregnant pause and the wry smile."

But they serve a deeper purpose, Brennan continued. "They are his way of preserving the past while purging it of its bleakest moments. 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 know."

Thurgood Marshall, Sr. was sworn into office as the first African-American associate justice of the United States Supreme Court on October 2, 1967. His appointment by President Lyndon B. Johnson was simultaneously and ostensibly both a historic and a defining moment for America.

Justice Marshall’s appointment came at a pivotal time in American history, following his two-year appointment by President John F. Kennedy as United States Solicitor General (1965-1967). The nation was also grappling with several national issues that had bitterly divided Americans such as civil rights, the Vietnam War, desegregation of public schools, integration, race relations, abortion and the growing competitiveness between conservative views and liberal views and interestingly, many of those issues would come before the High Court during Justice Marshall’s 24-year term of service.

Yet, the state of the nation in 1967 was ideal for the new associate justice, a man who had spent 34 years of his life fighting for the civil rights of black Americans and the poor primarily but whose legal victories ultimately advanced the rights of all Americans. Prior to his appointment as an associate justice, Justice Marshall had won a stunning 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court, distinguishing himself as an advocate of the Court.

Justice Marshall’s 24 years on the Supreme Court continued his tireless fight for civil rights and his unyielding vision of the Constitution fulfilling its promise of equality for all Americans. His decisions were sometimes met with the intense opposition of his peers on many issues of national prominence such as the death penalty, abortion, desegregation and laws affecting the rights of the poor. However, he never compromised the values, beliefs and convictions that had guided his success as a lawyer who was often credited as being a leading architect of the civil rights movement.

The First Years
During his first years on the High Court, Justice Marshall signed very few dissents as he generally voted with the liberal majority of justices who were on the Court at that time. Some the more notable cases that the justices heard included:

Mempa v. Rhay in 1967, in which Justice Marshall wrote his first opinion in a unanimous decision that granted defendants the right to an attorney during every stage of the criminal process. He particularly expressed his belief this right was important to the poor.
Stanley v. Georgia in 1969, which held that the private possession of pornography could not be subject to prosecution.
Benton v. Maryland in 1969, which gave defendants protection against double jeopardy in state courts.
Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg in 1970, in which Justice Marshall persuaded his colleagues to unanimously confirm the use of busing to integrate public schools, an issue that was close to his heart in light of his landmark case Brown v. Board of Education.

The 1970s: A Time of Change
1970 ushered in a new era of conservatism as the Court became skewed with more conservative justices. By 1972, Justice Marshall was the only remaining appointee of President Johnson and the 1970s marked the beginning of his legal battles against conservatives that followed him throughout his remaining years on the Court. Two landmark cases in which his personal convictions led him to fight vigorously for what he believed was right involved abortion and the death penalty:

Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1971 were landmark cases revolving around Texas and Georgia statutes restricting abortions. The justices were divided on the issue as well and Justice Marshall was openly aggressive in trying to the shape the Court’s opinion. In the end, he prevailed and the controversial ruling allowed abortion until such time that the fetus had viability outside the mother’s body.
Furman v. Georgia in 1972 prompted Justice Marshall to become the leader of the justices who were opposed to the death penalty. They won a difficult 5-4 vote outlawing capital punishment and marking the beginning of the justice’s long fight on the Court against the death penalty, which he vehemently opposed. He argued that the death penalty was applied inconsistently to different defendants and often was only applied to minorities and the indigent.

Over the years, as more conservative justices were appointed to the High Court, justices such as Justice Marshall and his ally Justice William Brennan, slowly became the minority. This sparked the beginning of Justice Marshall’s foray into writing a number of dissents, a practice that he would continue until his retirement in 1991 and also resulted in others in the judicial system to dub him “The Great Dissenter.” Two of his early and best known dissenting opinions occurred in two cases that shared similarities with Brown v. Board of Education.

In the 1973 case San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, the majority cast a 5-4 vote that the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection was not violated by the property tax system used by Texas and most other states to finance public education. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Marshall argued that the right to an education should be regarded as a fundamental constitutional right and when state policies have the effect of discriminating on the basis of wealth, the policies should be subject to judicial scrutiny.

In 1974, black parents sued after the Detroit courts would not approve their request that the black urban school district and the white suburban school districts be merged to promote integration. After the parents won in the lower courts and appeals court, the Supreme Court reversed the rulings. Justice Marshall wrote an extremely strong dissenting opinion citing Brown v. Board of Education.

Justice Marshall’s work during the mid 1970s centered on one issue that he viewed as having among the greatest implications for society: the death penalty. When the High Court heard another death penalty case, there was a 7-2 vote to reinstate capital punishment in 1976, bitterly disappointing him.

Two days after reading his dissent to the majority opinion on the death penalty, Justice Marshall suffered his first heart attack while at home in his Fairfax County, Virginia. Over the next three days, he suffered two more heart attacks while hospitalized, marking the beginning his 15-year struggle with maintaining the rigors of serving on the conservative majority Supreme Court amid his deteriorating health.

Over the next five years, Justice Marshall faced tremendous pressure as new cases that went to the heart of his lifelong efforts on civil rights erupted and came before the Court, including a new cases on abortion, affirmative action and contracts for minority businesses.

Justice Marshall wrote a particularly impassioned dissent following the Court’s decision in the critical 1997 Bakke case. The case involved a young white man, Allan Bakke, who sued the University of California at Davis. Bakke asserted that the university had violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights when 16 minority students with lower grades than he had been admitted to the medical school, while he had been denied. The case was long and particularly divisive, ending a 5-4 majority voting against the university, which was a great disappointment to Justice Marshall.

1980-1991: Forging Ahead
Justice Marshall, though battling failing health and battling conservatives on the Court, presented powerfully persuasive arguments on the first major race relations case of the 1980s, which involved the constitutionality of a federal government plan to set aside 10 percent of its contracts for minority businesses. He cited the history of government-approved racial discrimination and the need for the government to remedy it. The Court voted 6-3 in support of Justice Marshall’s arguments, giving him a needed victory.

Throughout the 1980s, Justice Marshall continued to argue strategically and vigorously in cases that asserted a more expansive focus on civil rights in areas such as the homeless, the indigent and prisoners with mental problems. He saw some major victories such as two cases involving the death penalty for mentally ill inmates being overturned. In those cases in which his arguments did not prevail, Justice Marshall continued his track record of strongly worded dissents.

He wrote dissents in every death penalty case and every case in which black defendants charged that prosecutors used race as a basis for not allowing black jurors. A 1986 case gave Justice Marshall a tremendously satisfying victory when in a 7-2 ruling, the justices held that black jurors could not be excluded simply because the defendant was also black.

By 1990, amid failing health and as the sole justice appointed by a Democratic president, Justice Marshall continued writing strongly-worded dissents in response to the Court’s notably regressive stand on civil rights cases.

In June 1991, he officially announced its retirement but continued to serve the law until his health prevented him from leaving his home.

He died of heart failure at Bethesda Medical Center at age 84 on Sunday, January 24, 1993.

Thurgood Marshall had given his life to the crusade for civil rights and justice for all, leaving an indelible imprint on history and on the lives of future generations of Americans.

Marshall was born to Norma A. Marshall and William Canfield on July 2, 1908. His parents were mulatottes, which are people classified as being at least half white. Norma and William were raised as “Negroes” and each taught their children to be proud of their ancestry. Furthermore, Marshall’s parents were against segregation, and instilled education as a means of uplift for their children. This passion for anti-segregation and education clearly transcended to Thurgood Marshall, Sr.

William, Thurgood’s father, worked full-time as a Pullman-car waiter and he had a deep passion for writing. He was later appointed a steward in Chesapeake Bay at the Gibson Island Club. Norma Marshall was an educator who taught elementary school. She enrolled in a teacher’s training program at Thurgood Marshall College Fund member institution Coppin State College. Norma became pregnant just prior to her graduation however, she later completed her degree and William was in full support of her becoming a college graduate.

On December 17, 1955, Marshall married Cecila “Cissy” Suyat Marshall. In 1956, Thurgood Marshall, Jr. was born, who was Marshall’s first child. Presently, Marshall Jr. is an attorney in Washington, D.C. He is employed as a partner with Bingham McCutchen and a principal with the Bingham Consulting Group. Marshall, Jr. formerly served as Assistant to the President and a Cabinet Secretary under William “Bill” Jefferson Clinton from 1997 to 2001. He earned baccalaureate and juris doctor degrees from the University of Virginia. He is serving or has served on various boards, specifically the Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service, Board of Trustees of the Ford Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Association, Corrections Corporation of America, Third Way, National Women's Law Center, University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and Supreme Court Historical Society. He currently lives in Virginia with his wife Teddi Marshall and their two sons, Will and Patrick. The couple remained married until Marshall’s death in 1993.

Thurgood Marshall’s Wife and Sons

Eight months after his wedding, Thurgood Marshall, Jr. was born, who was Marshall’s first child. Presently, Marshall Jr. is an attorney in Washington, D.C. He is employed as a partner with Bingham McCutchen and a principal with the Bingham Consulting Group. Marshall, Jr. formerly served as Assistant to the President and a Cabinet Secretary under William “Bill” Jefferson Clinton from 1997 to 2001. He earned baccalaureate and juris doctor degrees from the University of Virginia. He is serving or has served on various boards, specifically the Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service, Board of Trustees of the Ford Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Association, Corrections Corporation of America, Third Way, National Women's Law Center, University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and Supreme Court Historical Society. He currently lives in Virginia with his wife Teddi Marshall and their two sons, Will and Patrick.

A few years after the birth of Marshall, Jr., Cissy Marshall delivered a second baby boy. In July 1958, John W. Marshall was born. During the time of John’s birth, polls among African Americans revealed that Marshall, Sr. was tied with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the title of “Most Important Black Leader” for his stance on civil rights. Currently, John W. Marshall serves as Secretary of Public Safety for the Commonwealth of Virginia under the leadership of Governor Timothy M. Kaine. Secretary Marshall was first appointed under Governor Mark Warner in 2002 and re-appointed in January 2006. In his role, he has “responsibility for the oversight of 14 agencies and over 22,000 employees, including the Department of Corrections, Virginia National Guard and the Virginia State Police.” Educated at Georgetown University with an undergraduate degree in government, Secretary Marshall also obtained a post-baccalaureate certificate in administration of justice from Virginia Commonwealth University. Of note, Secretary Marshall is the first African American to serve as Director of the U.S. Marshall Service, America’s oldest federal law enforcement organization.

Thurgood Marshall Jr. (BIOGRAPHY)

Thurgood Marshall, Jr.Thurgood Marshall Jr. represents client interests before Congress, the executive branch and independent regulatory agencies. He provides guidance regarding ethics compliance and corporate governance and has developed legislative and regulatory strategies for clients involved in corporate mergers, professional and amateur sports, commercial aviation, utility and banking regulation, pharmaceuticals, and legal process reforms. He has also represented numerous witnesses involved in congressional investigations.

Thurgood's professional background includes service in each branch of the federal government and in the private sector. Prior to joining the firm, he was a member of the White House senior staff in the Clinton Administration, holding the position of assistant to the president and cabinet secretary from 1997 to 2001. In that position, he was the liaison between the president and the executive branch agencies. He served on the president's Management Council and was a senior member of the Continuity in Government team and directed the White House responses to natural disasters and transportation emergencies, including commercial aircraft crashes. Thurgood also co-chaired the White House Olympic Task Force. In that capacity, he coordinated the involvement of the federal government in the preparations for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Prior to his appointment as cabinet secretary, Thurgood was director of legislative affairs and deputy counsel to Vice President Al Gore. He managed all of the vice president's legislative activities, held a position on the Senate leadership staff and played a leading role on a wide range of legislative priorities throughout the first term of the Clinton administration. Before that, he was counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, as well as the Governmental Affairs Committee. He worked extensively on legislative initiatives ranging from antitrust, criminal procedure, corporate crime, insurance, intellectual property and telecommunications, to consumer protection, transportation safety and product liability.

Thurgood began his legal career as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Barrington D. Parker of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

He serves on the boards of Corrections Corporation of America and the Ford Foundation and was appointed by President George W. Bush on the recommendation of Senator Harry Reid to serve as a member of the board of governors of the United States Postal Service.

John W. Marshall (BIOGRAPHY)

Secretary of Public Safety John W. Marshall

On January 15, 2006, Governor Timothy M. Kaine appointed John W. Marshall to the position of Secretary of Public Safety. As Secretary of Public Safety, Marshall has responsibility for the oversight of 14 agencies and over 22,000 employees, including the Department of Corrections, Virginia National Guard and the Virginia State Police. Prior to his appointment by Governor Kaine, Marshall was appointed Secretary of Public Safety by Governor Mark R. Warner in January 2002.

John Marshall began his career in public service and law enforcement in 1980 as a Virginia State Trooper. During his 14 years with the Department of State Police, he also served as a Special Agent in the Narcotics Division, Sergeant-Instructor at the Training Academy and as a Sergeant assigned to Field Operations.

In 1994, President William J. Clinton appointed Marshall to serve as the United States Marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia. Later in 1999, President Clinton nominated Marshall to serve as the Director of the United States Marshals Service, our nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Upon confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Marshall took office as Director in November of 1999. He is the first African-American to serve as the Director.

Secretary Marshall graduated from Georgetown University in1988 with a BA in Government, and he also holds a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in the Administration of Justice from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Drama Desk, Emmy, and Tony awards’ winner and Oscar nominee, Laurence Fishburne plays civil rights victor Thurgood Marshall, Sr. in a one-man Broadway play entitled Thurgood. Opening on April 30, 2008 at the Booth Theater in New York City, Fishburne portrays the late Marshall’s life from his job as a waiter at a country club to his position as an Associate Justice on the High Court. Marshall is remembered as the first African American Supreme Court Justice. describes Thurgood as: “a triumph of courage—not just for the man, but for the nation he bravely challenged and proudly served.”
Thurgood Marshall College Fund Honors Actor Laurence Fishburne, Award Of Excellence
Actor awarded for portrayal of late Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall

New York, NY – May 1, 2008 – Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) president and CEO, Dwayne Ashley honored actor Laurence Fishburne with an Award of Excellence for his portrayal in “Thurgood” a one-man play, which opened last night, Wednesday, April 30, 2008, at the Booth Theater in New York City. The play is based on the life and times of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to sit on the United States Supreme Court and NAACP’s lead counsel in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case.

Fishburne, the recipient of Drama Desk, Tony and Emmy awards as well as a nomination for an Academy Award, has an acting career that spans more than 35 years. In this moving role, Fishburne narrates the life of Thurgood Marshall from his days waiting tables at a country club to his tenure as a United States Supreme Court Justice.

Ashley noted to Fishburne during the recognition, “Just as Thurgood Marshall exemplified in his works and deeds on behalf of our nation, I present this bust in his image to you for the body of work you have done in your career. The excellence you have exemplified in your craft culminating with your brilliant portrayal of Justice Marshall this evening is the best of the best.”

“It is only fitting that the Thurgood Marshall College Fund recognize Laurence Fishburne for his moving portrayal of this organization’s namesake,” said Ashley. “We applaud Mr. Fishburne for his contribution to entertainment and expanding Thurgood Marshall’s legacy through this production.”

Thurgood Marshall

When Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1967, he made history. Marshall was the first African American to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. During his time as a lawyer and judge he backed many seminal civil rights cases, including Brown v Board of Education.

Born on 2 July 1908, Marshall grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. He studied law at Lincoln University alongside Langston Hughes. Marshall gradually developed an interest in civil rights issues, and when applying for law school he dismissed the University of Maryland School of Law or its segregation policy. In 1933 he graduated from Howard University of Law with a law degree.

In 1934, Marshall began work with the Baltimore NAACP joined its national legal staff two years later. His first big case saw him represent Donald Gaines Murray in 1936. Murray was a student who had been rejected from the University of Maryland Law School because he was black. Marshall argued that, "since the State of Maryland had not provided a comparable law school for blacks that Murray should be allowed to attend the white university”. He won the case.

Thurgood Marshall

Marshall became the NAACP’s chief legal officer in 1938.

In 1940, Marshall represented four black men convicted for the murder of a white man in Florida and won. In the same year, he was appointed Chief Counsel for the NAACP.

Marshall’s most well known case in 1954 with Brown v Board of Education of Topeka.

In this landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in school was unconstitutional. The legal doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ had governed the education system, but it was clear that the education on offer for black students was anything but equal. Brown v Topeka declaredsegregation in schools unconstitutional.

Marshall was also involved in the Little Rock High School case following the town’s resistance to desegregation. In December 1959, the Supreme Court ruled that the school board must reopen the schools in Little Rock and resume the process of desegregating the city’s schools.

Marshall was a hugely successful lawyer - Marshall won 29 out of 32 cases in the Supreme Court.

President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1961. Marshall remained on that court until 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to be the United States Solicitor General. He was the first African American to hold the office.

As Solicitor General, he won 14 out of the 19 cases that he argued for the government

On 27 June 1991, Thurgood Marshall retired as a result of ill-health. He died aged 84 on 24 January 1993.

Thurgood Marshall appointed to Supreme Court - HISTORY

Thurgood Marshall laid the legal foundation for the end of segregation in the South. With the legislative and executive branches of government largely indifferent to racial discrimination, Marshall turned to the courts to prove that separate facilities for blacks and whites were inherently unequal. He won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court. In his biggest victory, Brown v. Board of Education (1954) of Topeka, Kansas, he persuaded a unanimous Supreme Court to rule that the "separate but equal" doctrine was unconstitutional.

For nearly three decades, Marshall had chipped away at the laws upholding segregation. As the NAACP's lead counsel, he won equal pay for black teachers, forced segregated courts to allow blacks to serve on juries, and ended the use of restrictive covenants that barred blacks and Jews from segregated neighborhoods. He also persuaded the Supreme Court to end the practice of all-white primaries and to outlaw segregated seating on interstate buses and trains.

He was the target of numerous death threats. On at least two occasions, he was threatened by lynch mobs.

Thurgood Marshall was born in Baltimore, Md.--a city in which an African American could not become a licensed plumber until 1949 and where an interracial tennis match in 1948 resulted in 34 arrests. Marshall attended a segregated high school in Baltimore and then went to Lincoln University, where the student body was all black and the faculty all white. His classmates included the poet Langston Hughes and Kwame Nkrumah, one of the leaders in Africa's decolonization.

Because the University of Maryland Law School refused to accept blacks, his mother had to pawn her engagement and wedding rings so that he could attend Howard Law School. Marshall graduated first in his law school class. In 1935, when he was just 26 years old and only two years out of law school, he got revenge against the University of Maryland Law School when he persuaded a judge to order the university to admit a black student (there were no separate black law schools in the state at that time).

In 1938, at the age of 30, Marshall became the NAACP's chief counsel. Convinced that a direct attack on the Supreme Court's Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision and its doctrine of separate but equal would fail, he initially directed his attention at areas where Southern states made no provision for African Americans, such as the systematic exclusion of blacks from professional schools, juries, and primary elections. Only when he had won these path-breaking cases did he move on to attack segregation outright. Few Americans have done so much to change our nation and to help it live up to the ideals on which it was founded.

In 1961, Marshall became a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the post of solicitor general, the government's chief trial lawyer. Two years later, Marshall became the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court.

When Marshall died in 1993 at the age of 84, his dream of equality and integration had only been partially realized. In that year, 39 years after the Brown decision, two-thirds of African American children attend primarily black schools. A tribute to Marshall at the time of his death underscores his significance: "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."

World War II dramatized the glaring contradiction between the American ideal of equal rights and the reality of racial inequality. As president, Harry S. Truman struggled to overcome this contradiction. He named the first African American, William H. Hastie, to the federal bench. He ordered the integration of the armed forces. Almost all of his civil rights proposals, however, including bills to outlaw the poll tax and suppress lynching, were defeated because of opposition from white Southern Democrats.

Thurgood Marshall appointed to Supreme Court - HISTORY

Portrait of Thurgood Marshall.
Reproduction courtesy of the Supreme Court Historical Society.

b. July 2, 1908, Baltimore, MD
d. January 24, 1993, Washington, D.C.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

Thurgood Marshall, the first African American ever to serve on the Court, was the younger of two sons of a railroad porter who later worked on the staff of a whites-only country club. His mother was a school teacher. Marshall graduated from Lincoln University in 1930 and applied to University of Maryland Law School but was turned down because of his race. He then attended Howard University Law School, though his mother had to pawn her wedding and engagement rings to pay the tuition. He graduated first in his class in 1933, just as America was feeling the full impact of the Great Depression.

As soon as he graduated, Marshall opened a law office in Baltimore, and the following year he represented the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in a suit challenging the University of Maryland Law School's policy of segregation. He won the case, and Marshall was brought onto the national staff of the NAACP in 1936, becoming the organization's chief legal counsel in 1940. He remained with the NAACP for a total of 25 years and served as its key strategist in the legal effort to end racial segregation throughout American society. In a series of federal court cases, Marshall and his mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston, set out to reverse segregation sanctioned by the Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Since that decision had called for "separate but equal" institutions for blacks and whites, the NAACP argued that institutions for African Americans were not equal to the parallel institutions for whites. A series of decisions ruled in favor of the NAACP, and, beginning in 1945, Marshall began challenging the Plessy doctrine itself. This ultimately led to the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, which Marshall successfully argued before the Supreme Court in 1952 and again in 1953. The resulting Court decision overturned the Plessy doctrine of "separate but equal," agreeing that students' self-esteem was harmed by the mere fact of segregation. While the decision applied only to segregation in public education, it set the stage for the civil rights movement. Marshall prevailed in 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.

President John F. Kennedy nominated Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1961. President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed him solicitor general in 1965 (the first African-American to hold this position). In 1967 President Johnson created an opening on the Supreme Court by choosing for his attorney general Ramsey Clark, the son of Associate Justice Tom Clark. Justice Clark resigned from the Court to avoid conflicts of interest, and the president appointed Marshall to fill his seat. Marshall is said to have remarked, "I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband." At heart a New Deal liberal, Marshall demonstrated an unwavering commitment to universal civil rights and civil liberties. He was a staunch opponent of the death penalty and a dedicated civil libertarian. No justice was more consistent in opposing government regulation of speech or private sexual conduct. As the Court became more conservative in his final years and he found himself in the liberal minority, he wrote, "Power, not reason, is the new currency of this Court's decision making." He retired in 1991.

Published in December 2006.
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Op-Ed: Let’s let Thurgood Marshall explain what’s wrong with Brett Kavanaugh’s originalism

Whenever a Supreme Court seat must be filled, we’re confronted with a fundamental battle over the meaning of the Constitution: Is it a living document, or can it only be plumbed for the founders’ “original intent”? The so-called originalists have loudly praised President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Their cheers, of course, signal a nominee they expect to tip the court in favor of their ideology.

It’s instructive before the confirmation hearings begin to hear from one of the most effective and articulate warriors on the other side: Justice Thurgood Marshall, legendary civil rights attorney and the first black justice on the high court.

In Marshall’s opinion, the Founding Fathers weren’t all that astute, and neither was the Constitution they penned in 1787. Marshall delivered that opinion, controversial in its time, during the nation’s bicentennial celebration of the historic document at a conference of attorneys on Maui, in Hawaii, in May 1987. His less than laudatory words stood in contrast to the praise for the Constitution offered earlier that year by President Reagan and retired Chief Justice Warren E. Burger.

Two hundred years after its writing, Marshall saw America’s founding document as obsolete.

Reagan had used his State of the Union speech to laud the Constitution as “the impassioned and inspired vehicle by which we travel through history,” and Burger, chair of the constitutional bicentennial commission, had described the document as “the best thing of its kind that was ever put together.”

Marshall’s words were also at odds with those expressed by conservative jurists such as Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III, for whom “original intent” was sacrosanct.

“I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever ‘fixed’ at the Philadelphia Convention,” Marshall told the lawyers in Hawaii. “Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound.”

Marshall was critical of the men who wrote the Constitution because he saw their original intent as favoring a government that advanced slavery and prevented blacks and women from exercising the right to vote. The Constitution was thus “defective from the start,” he said, “requiring 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, we hold as fundamental today.”

Two hundred years after its writing, Marshall saw America’s founding document as obsolete. “While the Union survived the Civil War, the Constitution did not,” he said. “In its place arose a new, more promising basis for justice, the 14th Amendment, ensuring protection of the life, liberty and property of all persons against deprivations without due process, and guaranteeing equal protection of the laws.”

The 14th Amendment gave rise to a form of justice that the Founding Fathers had never envisioned, never intended. The framers “could not have imagined, nor would they have accepted, that the document they were drafting would one day be construed by a Supreme Court to which had been appointed a woman and the descendant of an African slave.”

Marshall left no doubt about his belief that originalists were wrongheaded in their insistence on a purely textual interpretation of the Constitution and strict adherence to the motives at play in the late 18th century.

Calling for a “sensitive understanding of the Constitution’s inherent defects,” Marshall invited his audience on Maui to “see that the true miracle was not the birth of the Constitution, but its life, a life nurtured through two turbulent centuries of our own making, and a life embodying much good fortune that was not.”

Marshall was targeting anyone who would make gods of the Founding Fathers. That group has proliferated in the years since he delivered his bicentennial address, and they are celebrating Kavanaugh’s nomination.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, as expected, those who consider originalism an extreme view will have a battle on their hands to ensure that the Constitution lives and evolves in a way that advances rights never imagined by its framers. Let’s call it honoring Marshall’s original intent.

Michael Long is editor of “Marshalling Justice: The Early Civil Right Letters of Thurgood Marshall.”

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook

Watch the video: Thurgood Marshall Nominated to Supreme Court Washington., 6131967


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