Thurgood Marshall, 1908 - 1993

portrait of Thurgood Marshall
In the Oval Office, photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto (13 June 1967)

Born: 2 July 1908, Baltimore, Maryland
Died: 24 January 1993, Bethesda, Maryland

Named Thoroughgood at birth, Marshall was the great-grandson of a slave. He didn't enjoy spelling his name, so he shortened it in second grade. When he misbehaved in school, his punishment was copying the Constitution, which he later attributed to piquing his interest. He graduated from Frederick Douglass High School at Baltimore in 1925, then went to Oxford, Pennsylvania to attended Lincoln University. Wanting to apply to the University of Maryland School of Law, the dean told him that the segregation policy would not allow it. He was first in the class of 1933 at Howard University School of Law. After a brief period in private practice he began working with the Baltimore office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His first major case, Murray v. Pearson, overturned the policy that prevented him from attending the University of Maryland. At age 32, he argued and won his first U. S. Supreme Court case in 1940 and was soon Chief Council for the NAACP. He argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954, the case that ended "separate but equal" in education at the national level. Overall, he won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the high court. President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the second circuit Court of Appeals in 1961, he served on that court until 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson named him Solicitor General, the first black to hold that post. In June of 1967, Johnson appointed Marshall to the Supreme Court, he was confirmed in August, the first black justice at that level. In addition to supporting civil rights during his 24 years on the high court, he was involved in many other significant cases before his retirement in 1991. He died of heart failure at the National Naval Medical Center and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Biography from Wikipedia and Thurgood Marshall College, UC San Diego

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