Marshall, Thurgood (1908–)

Author:Mark Tushnet
Pages:1676-1678
 
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Page 1676

Thurgood Marshall, the first black Justice of the Supreme Court, was born in Baltimore in 1908. After graduation from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, Marshall attended Howard University Law School. Graduating first in his class in 1933, Marshall became one of CHARLES H. HOUSTON'S protégés. He began practice in Baltimore, where he helped revitalize the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Houston, who had become special counsel to the NAACP in New York, was developing a program of litigation designed to attack segregated education in the South; Marshall joined the NAACP staff as Houston's assistant in 1936.

Of all the Justices who have served on the Supreme Court, Marshall has the strongest claim to having contributed as much to the development of the Constitution as a lawyer as he has done as a judge. At the start of his career, race relations law centered on the SEPARATE BUT EQUAL DOCTRINE. In his initial years at the NAACP, Marshall brought a number of lawsuits challenging unequal salaries paid to black and white teachers in the South. After Marshall succeeded Houston as special counsel in 1938, he became both a litigator and a coordinator of litigation, most of it challenging segregated education. He also successfully argued a number of cases involving RACIAL DISCRIMINATION in the administration of criminal justice before the Supreme Court. When social and political changes during WORLD WAR II led to increased black militancy and support for the NAACP, Marshall was able to expand the NAACP's legal staff by hiring an extremely talented group of young, mostly black lawyers. Although he continued to conduct some litigation, Marshall gradually assumed the roles of appellate advocate and overall strategist. Relying on his staff to generate helpful legal theories, he selected the theory most likely to accomplish the NAACP's goals. This process culminated in the five lawsuits decided by the Supreme Court as BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION (1954). Marshall had used his staff to develop these cases and the legal theory that segregation was unconstitutional no matter how equal were the physical facilities. After the Supreme Court held that segregation was unconstitutional and that it should be eliminated "with ALL DELIBERATE SPEED, " Marshall and the NAACP staff devoted much of their attention to overcoming the impediments that southern states began to place in the way of DESEGREGATION. These impediments included school closures and investigations and harassment of the NAACP and its lawyers.

Marshall left the NAACP in 1961, having been nominated by President JOHN F. KENNEDY to a position on the UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS for the Second Circuit. His confirmation to that position was delayed by southern opposition for over eleven months. During Marshall's four years on the Second Circuit, he wrote an important opinion holding that the DOUBLE JEOPARDY clause applied to the states, anticipating by four years the position that the Supreme Court would adopt in BENTON V. MARYLAND (1969), a decision written by Justice Marshall. He also urged in dissent an expansive interpretation of statutes allowing persons charged with crimes in state courts to remove those cases to federal court. (See CIVIL RIGHTS REMOVAL.) Marshall was nominated as...

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