Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thurgood Marshall-1st African American Supreme Court Justice

Thurgood Marshall was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the Court's 96th justice and its 1st African American Justice. Before becoming a judge, Marshall was a lawyer who was best known for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education, a decision that desegregated public schools. He served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit after being appointed by President John F. Kennedy and then served as the Solicitor General after being appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. President Johnson nominated him to the United States Supreme Court in 1967. His father, William Marshall, who was a railroad porter, and his mother Norma, a teacher, instilled in him an appreciation for the United States Constitution and the rule of law. Marshall attended Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore and was placed in the class with the best students. He graduated a year early in 1925 with a B-grade average, and placed in the top 3rd of the class. Subsequently he went to Lincoln University.  Marshall stated that his goal was to become a lawyer. Among his classmates were poet Langston Hughes and musician Cab Calloway. He was not politically active at first, becoming a "star" of the debating team and in his freshman year opposed the integration of African-American professors at the university. Hughes later described him as "rough and ready, loud and wrong". In his second year he got involved in a sit-in protest against segregation at a local movie theatre. In this same year, he was initiated as a member of the 1st black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. He graduated from Lincoln with honors (cum laude) Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, with a major in American literature and philosophy. Marshall attended Howard University School of Law, where his views on discrimination were heavily influenced by the dean Charles Hamilton Houston. In 1933, he graduated 1st in his class at Howard. In 1936, Marshall became part of the national staff of the NAACP. In Murray v. Pearson, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled "Compliance with the Constitution cannot be deferred at the will of the state. Whatever system is adopted for legal education must furnish equality of treatment now." President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1961. In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to be the United States Solicitor General, the 1st African American to hold the office. As Solicitor General, he won 14 out of the 19 cases that he argued for the government. On June 13, 1967, President Johnson nominated Marshall to the Supreme Court following the retirement of Justice Tom C. Clark, saying that this was "the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place."                                                                                             "The government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today. I plan to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution as a living document, including the Bill of Rights and the other amendments protecting individual freedoms and human rights." Thurgood Marshall.                                                           

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