Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall was born in Baltimore, on 2nd July, 1908. His father was a steward in a white social club and his mother was a school teacher. Marshall was a brilliant student and received degrees from Lincoln University (1930) and Howard University Law School (1933).

Charles Houston was one of Marshall's tutors at Howard University and in 1936 he advised Walter Francis White, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), to appoint him to the organization's legal department. The two men now began the NAACP's campaign against segregation in transportation and publicly owned places of recreation, inequities in the segregated education system and restrictive covenants in housing.

In 1939 Marshall became director of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Over the next few years Marshall won 29 of the 32 cases that he argued before the Supreme Court. This included cases concerning the exclusion of black voters from primary elections (1944), restrictive covenants in housing (1948), unequal facilities for students in state universities (1950) and racial segregation in public schools (1954).

President John F. Kennedy nominated Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on 23rd September, 1961 but opposition from Southern senators delayed the appointment until 11th September, 1962.

In July, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall as his U.S. solicitor general. Two years later, Marshall became the first African American to join the Supreme Court. For over twenty years Marshall was a consistent supporter of individual rights. His views often clashed with Richard Nixon and in 1987 he controversially told a television interviewer that Ronald Reagan had the worst presidential record on civil rights since Woodrow Wilson.

Republican appointments to the Supreme Court eventually left Marshall an isolated liberal in an increasingly conservative body. He resigned on 27th June, 1991, after writing a strong statement against a conservative majority decision in Payne v Tennessee. Thurgood Marshall died at Bethesda, Maryland, on 24th January, 1993.