- NAME: Thurgood Marshall
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist, Lawyer, Judge, Supreme Court Justice
- BIRTH DATE: July 02, 1908
- DEATH DATE: January 24, 1993
- Did You Know?: In 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African-American justice of the Supreme Court.
- EDUCATION: Lincoln University, Howard University School of Law, Colored High and Training School (Frederick Douglass High School)
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Baltimore, Maryland
- PLACE OF DEATH: Bethesda, Maryland
- Full Name: Thurgood Marshall
Best Known For
Thurgood Marshall was instrumental in ending legal segregation and became the first African-American justice of the Supreme Court.
The life of Thurgood Marshall was one that touched every decade of the 20th century and forever changed the course of equality in the United States of America.
As Thurgood Marshall’s health began to fail him, he still remained a force on the the Supreme Court. At age 83, he retired from the courts and passed away at the age of 85.
In 1967 Thurgood Marshall began his tenure as the first African American Supreme Court Justice.
In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall to the post of Solicitor General, forging a strong relationship between Marshall and the President.
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In 1934, he began working for the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In one of Marshall's first cases—which he argued alongside his mentor, Charles Houston—he defended another well-qualified undergraduate, Donald Murray, who like himself had been denied entrance to the University of Maryland Law School. Marshall and Houston won Murray v. Pearson in January 1936,
the first in a long string of cases designed to undermine the legal basis for de jure racial segregation in the United States.
Later in 1936, Marshall moved to New York City to work full time as legal counsel for the NAACP. Over the following decades, Marshall argued and won a variety of cases to strike down many forms of legalized racism, helping to inspire the American Civil Rights Movement. Marshall's first victory before the Supreme Court came in Chambers v. Florida (1940), in which he successfully defended four black men who had been convicted of murder on the basis of confessions coerced from them by police. Another crucial Supreme Court victory came in the 1944 case of Smith v. Allwright, in which the Court struck down the Democratic Party's use of whites-only primary elections in various Southern states.
However, the great achievement of Marshall's career as a civil-rights lawyer was his victory in the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of black parents in Topeka, Kansas on behalf of their children forced to attend all-black segregated schools. Through Brown v. Board, one of the most important cases of the 20th century, Marshall challenged head-on the legal underpinning of racial segregation, the doctrine of "separate but equal" established by the 1896 Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson.
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," and therefore racial segregation of public schools violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. While enforcement of the Court's ruling proved to be uneven and painfully slow, Brown v. Board provided the legal foundation, and much of the inspiration, for the American Civil Rights Movement that unfolded over the next decade. At the same time, the case established Marshall as one of the most successful and prominent lawyers in America.
In 1961, then-newly elected President John F. Kennedy appointed Thurgood Marshall as a judge for the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Serving as a circuit court judge over the next four years, Marshall issued more than 100 decisions, none of which was overturned by the Supreme Court. Then, in 1965, Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, appointed Marshall to serve as the first black U.S. solicitor general, the attorney designated to argue on behalf of the federal government before the Supreme Court.
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