Thurgood Marshall

BY: Lexy Ramos

Summary and Impact

  • Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was a U.S. Supreme Court justice and civil rights advocate. Marshall earned an important place in American history on the basis of two accomplishments. First, as legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he guided the litigation that destroyed the legal underpinnings of Jim Crow segregation. Second, as an associate justice of the Supreme Court–the nation’s first black justice–he crafted a distinctive jurisprudence marked by uncompromising liberalism, unusual attentiveness to practical considerations beyond the formalities of law, and an indefatigable willingness to dissent.
  • Marshall served as a Supreme Court judge for 24 years. He gained a reputation for being a moderate liberal who was opposed to the death penalty. He also enjoyed a reputation for being a fierce supporter of an individual’s constitutional rights.
  • On June 27th 1991, Thurgood Marshall retired as a result of ill-health. He died aged 84, on January 24th, 1993.
  • Thurgood Marshall was a student of Charles Houston, special counsel to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He followed in his mentor's footsteps and began working for the NAACP in 1938. Marshall became a key prosecuting attorney in several school segregation cases argued before the Supreme Court, including the 1954 landmark case Brown v. Board of Education. In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson successfully nominated him for a seat on the Court, making Marshall the first African American to hold a position on the highest court in the land.

In 1950, as an attorney for the NAACP, Thurgood Marshall brought two important cases before the United States Supreme Court, each involving racial segregation at the college level.
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