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Thurgood Marshall

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Thurgood Marshall was an American jurist and the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Prior to becoming a judge, he was a lawyer who was best remembered for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education.

Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 2, 1908. His original name was Thoroughgood but he shortened it to Thurgood in second grade. His father, William Marshall, instilled in him an appreciation for the Constitution of the United States and the rule of law. Additionally, as a child, he was punished for his school misbehavior by being forced to read the Constitution, which he later said piqued his interest in the document. Marshall was a descendant of slaves.

Marshall graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1930. Afterward, Marshall wanted to apply to his hometown law school at the University of Maryland School of Law, but the dean told him that he shouldn't bother because he would not be accepted due to the school's segregation policy. Later, as a civil rights litigator, he successfully sued the school for this policy in the case of Murray v. Pearson. Instead, Marshall sought admission and was accepted at Howard University. He was influenced by its dynamic new dean, Charles Hamilton Houston, who instilled in his students the desire to apply the tenets of the Constitution to all Americans.

Marshall was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Black Greek-letter fraternity, established by African American students in 1906.

Marshall received his law degree from Howard in 1933, and set up a private practice in Baltimore. The following year, he began working with the Baltimore NAACP. He won his first major civil rights case, Murray v. Pearson, 169 Md. 478 (1936). This involved the first attempt to chip away at Plessy v. Ferguson, a plan created by his co-counsel on the case Charles Hamilton Houston. Marshall represented Donald Gaines Murray, a black Amherst College graduate with excellent credentials who had been denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School because of its separate but equal policies. This policy required black students to accept one of three options, attend: Morgan College, the Princess Anne Academy, or out-of-state black institutions. In 1935, Thurgood Marshall argued the case for Murray, showing that neither of the in-state institutions offered a law school and that such schools were entirely unequal to the University of Maryland. Marshall and Houston expected to lose and intended to appeal to the federal courts. However, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled against the state of Maryland and its Attorney General, who represented the University of Maryland, stating "Compliance with the Constitution cannot be deferred at the will of the state. Whatever system is adopted for legal education now must furnish equality of treatment now". While it was a moral victory, the ruling had no real authority outside the state of Maryland.

Marshall won his very first U.S. Supreme Court case, Chambers v. Florida, 309 U.S. 227 (1940). At the age of 32, that same year, he was appointed Chief Counsel for the NAACP. He argued many other cases before the Supreme Court, most of them successfully, including Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944); Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948); Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950); and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637 (1950). His most famous case as a lawyer was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" public education was unconstitutional because it could never be truly equal. In total, Marshall won 29 out of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.

During the 1950s, Thurgood Marshall developed a friendly relationship with J. Edgar Hoover, the director the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In 1956, for example, he privately praised Hoover's campaign to discredit T.R.M. Howard, a maverick civil rights leader from Mississippi. During a national speaking tour, Howard had criticized the FBI's failure to seriously investigate cases such as the 1955 murders of George W. Lee and Emmett Till. Ironically, two years earlier Howard had arranged for Marshall to deliver a well-received speech at a rally of his Regional Council of Negro Leadership in Mound Bayou, Mississippi only days before the Brown decision.

President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1961. A group of Democratic Party Senators led by Mississippi's James Eastland held up his confirmation, so he served for the first several months under a recess appointment. Marshall remained on that court until 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him Solicitor General.

On June 13, 1967, President Johnson appointed 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



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