Thurgood Marshall

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Thurgood Marshall
ThurgoodMarshall.jpg
Former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
From: October 2, 1967 – October 1, 1991
NominatorLyndon B. Johnson
PredecessorTom Clarke
SuccessorClarence Thomas
Information
Spouse(s) Vivian "Busters" Burey
Cecilia Suyat
Religion Episcopalian

The Honorable Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 - January 24, 1993) was a United States Supreme Court Justice from 1967 until his retirement in 1991. As a lawyer, he argued the winning side in the Brown vs. Board of Education case that desegregated American Public Schools. Born in Baltimore, Maryland as Thoroughgood Marshall, he shortened it to Thurgood while in elementary school.

Contents

Career as a Lawyer

Marshall was well known for dedicating his life to studying the rule of law, as well as fighting racism and discrimination. He faced racism on a regular basis, even being denied acceptance into the University of Maryland Law School because he was black. He was able to integrate this school by winning a lawsuit in Murray v. Pearson, after another black student was prevented from studying there on account of race.

Justice Marshall worked hard to chip away at the doctrine of "separate but equal" created by Plessy v. Ferguson. In 1938, he was appointed by Charles Hamilton Houston, chief legal counsel for the NAACP at the time, to serve as the leader of NAACP lawyers to argue in civil rights cases before the Supreme Court. Between 1938 and 1961, he argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court and won 29 of them. Some cases include Smith v. Allwright (1944), which extended voting rights and desegregation by holding that primary elections cannot be restricted to any race. Other cases include Morgan v. Virginia (1946), which was regarding state segregation laws for interstate buses. Marshall argued in this case that the laws were unconstitutional because they violated the Interstate Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, successfully overturning them. In 1950, in Sweatt v. Painter, he was able to chip away at Plessy even more when the Supreme Court ruled that state law schools must accept applicants regardless of race, even if "separate but equal" schools exist.

However, Marshall's greatest Supreme Court victory was Brown vs. Board of Education, which outlawed segregation in public education, dissolved the doctrine of "separate but equal," overturning the Plessy decision, and extended many of the rulings of previous cases he won before the Supreme Court. The ruling thrilled black Americans, as well as people of all other races. The Chicago Defender, a black newspaper, declared after the ruling, "Neither the atom bomb nor the hydrogen bomb will ever be as meaningful to our democracy as the unanimous declaration of the Supreme Court that racial segregation violates the spirit and the letter of our Constitution."[1]

The Brown lawsuit involved the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas. It was brought by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a small organization entirely separate from the much better known NAACP.

Appointed as a Judge

Years later, in 1961, Marshall was appointed by then President John F. Kennedy to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In 1965, he was chosen by then President Lyndon B. Johnson to be US solicitor general. Two years later, in 1967, President Johnson appointed him to the Supreme Court of the United States, becoming the first black American ever to be an Associate Justice there.

Supreme Court Justice

Marshall served as Associate Justice from 1967 to 1991. He was known for his very liberal positions. Like most liberal Justices, he favored "loose constructionism", which meant a loose interpretation of the Constitution to expand civil rights and liberties that the Legislative branch had not endorsed. Some of his majority opinions include Benton v. Maryland (1969), which protected a man named John Dalmer Benton from double jeopardy after facing two trials on larceny, finding that his second trial constituted double jeopardy, a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause in the Fifth Amendment. Another majority opinion in which he wrote was in Dunn v. Blumstein (1972), in which he expanded voting and traveling rights. He was also a supporter of abortion rights, joining the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, was a staunch supporter of civil rights, and extended rights to accused persons. He voted alongside Justice William Brennan on a number of cases, including the death penalty. Both believed in both Furman v. Georgia and Gregg v. Georgia that the death penalty inherently violated the ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" in the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution.

Marshall's health deteriorated in 1991, so he retired from the Supreme Court then. He was replaced by Clarence Thomas, another African American. In 1992, he was awarded the Liberty Medal for extending individual rights while serving in the Supreme Court. He died on January 24, 1993, in Bethesda, Maryland. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. At his memorial service, a copy of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling was placed beside his casket, on which an admirer wrote, "You shall always be remembered."[2]

References

  1. Tolerance.org: Teaching Tolerance: BROWN V. BOARD: An American Legacy http://www.tolerance.org/teach/magazine/features.jsp?ar=485
  2. Fanfare for an Uncommon Man - TIME http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,977658-1,00.html
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