The Controversial, First Black Supreme Court Justice:
Thurgood Marshall was the first black man ever to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Marshall was one the finest and most recognized civil rights leaders of the 20th century. Marshall had a lot of liberal views that brought much controversy upon him. Marshall did what he thought would make for a better country and most certainly a more civil and obedient America. Although he faced many challenges, he overcame them to become one of the most recognized and respected Supreme Court Justices of all time.
Thurgood Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore Maryland. He was the son of the late Norma Arica, who was among the first black women to graduate from Columbia Teachers College in New York. Marshalls father, William C. Thurgood, worked as a railroad porter and part time as a lead steward at a club where only white people were allowed membership. Marshalls father was the first black man to serve on a grand jury in Baltimore. Marshall was named after his grandfather, a former slave who changed his name to Thoroughgood upon joining the United States army during the Civil War.
At the age of 16, Marshall graduated from an all black high school. He continued his education at Lincoln University in Chester, Pennsylvania. It was at this time in his life that Marshall first participated in the civil rights movement. Along with a group of other African Americans, Marshall participated in a sit-in at an all-white theatre. Marshalls ambitions as a civil rights leader were becoming visible early on.
Marshall graduated from Lincoln in 1930, with honors. During the same year, he married Vivian Burey who would stay happily married to Marshall until her early and unexpected death in 1955. After graduating from Lincoln in 1930, Marshall wanted to even further his education. He enrolled in Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C. Although he went to Howard, it was not his first choice; he had applied first to the University of Maryland School of Law, but was denied because of his race.
In1936, Marshall started his life as liberal civil rights leader. Marshall dropped a law practice he had been involved in for three years to become a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). It was here that Marshall started his most recognized achievements. He started developing and putting into action methods to end racial segregation. He worked with the communities he was around for support. Marshall took his cases to local, state, and also federal courts. Some of his cases reached the Supreme Court.
Marshall saw that reform was needed; he argued his liberal views with passion, and in some cases it paid off. In 1940 the case Chambers v. Florida, Marshall was able to persuade the United States Supreme Court to overturn the conviction of any man or woman based on coerced confession. Again in 1944, Marshall was able to convince the Supreme Court to do away with the Texas practice of excluding blacks from primary elections in Smith v. Allwright. Marshall dominated when he went before the Supreme Court. In the cases Sipuel v. Oklahoma (1948) and Sweatt v. Painter (1950) Marshall was able to make the Supreme Court integrate law schools at Universities in Oklahoma and Texas. These cases brought much recognition to Marshall, a black lawyer with a mind set to reforming a racist nation. He took his cases to the highest courts and brought change that would last forever. In Marshalls most recognized and famous case, he was able to convince the United States Supreme Court to desegregate public schools in the U.S. on the basis that segregation was unconstitutional. The case was called Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The victory in this case started a wave of civil rights movements in the 1950s and 1960s.Also, in the 1950s, Marshall went on to fight and win cases for desegregation in such things as public parks and bus systems. Through his cases in the Supreme Court, Marshall became one of the most significant civil rights leaders and reformers of the 20th century. Marshall won twenty-nine Supreme Court cases.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Then, in 1965, president Johnson appointed Marshall as solicitor general of the United States. As solicitor general, Marshall argued cases before the Supreme Court, but it was for the Government this time around. Finally, President Johnson appointed Marshall as the first black Supreme Court Justice in June 1967.
Marshall was a controversial person for many reasons. He was a liberal who demanded and fought for equal rights for everyone. Many white supremacists hated and didnt like the fact Marshall was appointed as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. For the simple fact that he was black; the U.S. Senate even had trouble declaring and accepting him as a Justice. Marshall was a brilliant lawyer; he hardly spoke during hearings while serving as Justice except to make a sarcastic remark here and there. He was against such things as capital punishment and punishment for civil rights protestors. Marshall knew how the law needed to be set up and how this country needed to be run.
Without Thurgood Marshall and his liberal views, the United States could still be segregated, with all-black schools and all-white schools. Im glad there was a Thurgood Marshall. He made sense and knew what was right. Im for equal rights for everyone as Marshall was. He was so controversial because of all the prejudice people in America. He stood up for each and every black person in America, and changed the way they were living.
Marshall was right about everything he did. His arguments were clear and to the point, that is why he was so successful. His arguments were also very convincing; he was able to win twenty-nine Supreme Court Cases as an NAACP lawyer. No ordinary lawyer could have done what he did.
Thurgood Marshall retired from the United States Supreme Court in 1991 due to health problems. In January 1993, he died of heart failure; he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His second wife and two sons survived him.
Marshall, Thrugood, Microsoft Encarta Online 2001 http:// Encarta.masn.com c 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights Reserved.
Ken Love. Marshall, Thrugood (1908-1993), 2 Sept. 1997 .
John Franklin. This Person in History, 1:Thrugood Marshall (1908-1993). .
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