Thurgood Marshall was one of the architects of Brown v. Board of Education, and was the lead counsel arguing against the separate but equal rule of Plessy v. Ferguson. Charles Hamilton Houston was his mentor at and after Marshall attended Howard University School of Law. He went on to be the first African American to sit on the United States Supreme Court.
Marshall was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He did well through high school and graduated from Lincoln University, a small private historically black university, in Pennsylvania in 1930. He applied to the University of Maryland School of Law in 1930, but was denied admission. He then went to Howard University School of Law, in Washington, DC.
In 1933 Thurgood Marshall graduated as valedictorian of HUSL and became a civil rights activist. In 1938 he became an attorney for the NAACP and in 1940 became the NAACP's chief counsel and founder of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Among the many precedent-setting cases he argued were Smith v. Allwright (1944) in which the Court held that the exclusion of black voters from primary elections in Texas was unconstitutional and Shelley v. Kraemer (1948) in which the Court held that racial restrictive covenants in housing were unconstitutional.
But the most well known work done by Thurgood Marshall, along with Charles Hamilton Houston and others, was building the precedents that led to Brown v. Board of Education. In 1954 Brown overruled Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and held "separate but equal" unconstitutional in public schools nationwide. Brown ultimately led to the dismantling of de jure discrimination. Among the major steps toward Brown was Pearson v. Murray (1936) in which Marshall and Houston fittingly established in Maryland's highest court that the University of Maryland School of Law could not exclude African Americans as Maryland had excluded Marshall just a few years earlier. Two years later in Gaines (1938) this principle was extended to the entire country when the U.S. Supreme Court held that Missouri could not exclude blacks from the state law school since there was no comparable, and could be no comparable, school in Missouri for African Americans because of the unique intangibles of a legal education. The principal was then extended further in a number of cases including Sweatt v. Painter (1950) which declared separate but equal facilities for black professionals and graduate students in state universities unconstitutional.
President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1961. He left that court to become President Lyndon B. Johnson's Solicitor General in 1965. In 1967 Johnson appointed him to the Supreme Court where he served until he retired in 1991. He was the first African American to serve on the nation's highest court.
Thurgood Marshall died of heart failure on January 24, 1993.
This additional biographical data was taken from the Federal Judicial Center [link] on Aug 15, 2016:
| Marshall, Thurgood |
- Born July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, MD
Died January 24, 1993, in Washington, DC
Federal Judicial Service:
Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Received a recess appointment from John F. Kennedy on October 5, 1961, to a new seat authorized by 75 Stat. 80; nominated to the same position by John F. Kennedy on January 15, 1962. Confirmed by the Senate on September 11, 1962, and received commission on September 14, 1962. Service terminated on August 23, 1965, due to resignation.
Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States
Nominated by Lyndon B. Johnson on June 13, 1967, to a seat vacated by Tom C. Clark. Confirmed by the Senate on August 30, 1967, and received commission on August 30, 1967. Assumed senior status on October 1, 1991. Service terminated on January 24, 1993, due to death.
Allotment as Circuit Justice:
Seventh Circuit, October 9, 1967-January 6, 1972
Second Circuit, September 24, 1971-September 30, 1991
Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, A.B., 1930
Howard University School of Law, LL.B., 1933
Private practice, Baltimore, Maryland, 1933-1937
NAACP, Baltimore [Maryland] Regional Office, 1934-1940; counsel,1934-1936; special assistant counsel, 1936-1938; special counsel, 1938-1940
Director/counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 1940-1961
Solicitor general of the United States, 1965-1967
Nominated to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, September 23, 1961; no Senate vote
- Research Collections
- Oral History