Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall

Baltimore, Baltimore City, Maryland, USA
Death 24 Jan 1993 (aged 84)
Bethesda, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA
Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
Plot Section 5, Grave 40-3
Memorial ID 1675 · View Source
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Jurist, US Supreme Court Justice. He served in that position from October 1967 until October 1991. He was the Supreme Court's first African American justice and is best remembered for his jurisprudence in the fields of civil rights and criminal procedure. Born Thoroughgood Marshall, his father was a railroad porter and his mother was a teacher, who both instilled in him an appreciation for the United States Constitution and the rule of law. He was the great-grandson of a slave who was born in the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo and his grandfather was also a slave. He shortened his first name to Thurgood when he was in the 2nd grade. He attended Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, Maryland and graduated a year early in 1925. He attended Lincoln University near Oxford, Pennsylvania, with the intent to become a lawyer. Not a serious student or politically active at first, he was suspended twice for hazing and pranks against fellow students. In his second year, he became involved in a sit-in protest against segregation at a local movie theatre. His marriage to Vivien Burey in September 1929 encouraged him to take his studies seriously, and he graduated from Lincoln University with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, majoring in American literature and philosophy. After graduating from the Howard University School of Law in Washington DC, he started a private law practice in Baltimore. In 1934 he began his 25 year affiliation with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) by representing the organization in the law school discrimination suit Murray v. Pearson, which he won. In 1936 he became part of the national staff of the NAACP. In 1940, at the age of only 32, he won US Supreme Court case Chambers v. Florida. That same year, he founded and became the executive director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In this position, he argued many other civil rights cases before the Supreme Court, most of them successfully, including Smith v. Allwright (1944), Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), Sweatt v. Painter (1950), and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents (1950). His most famous case as a lawyer was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" public education, as established earlier by Plessy v. Ferguson, was not applicable to public education because it could never be truly equal, and it paved the way for the right of African-American students to attend schools with white students. In total, he won 29 out of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to a new seat created by Congressional legislation. A group of Senators from the South, led by Mississippi's James Eastland, held up his confirmation, so he served for the first several months under a recess appointment. He remained on that court until 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to be the US Solicitor General, the first African American to hold the office. In this position, he won 14 out of the 19 cases that he argued for the government. In June 1967 President Johnson nominated him to the US Supreme Court following the retirement of Justice Tom C. Clark, and was confirmed by the US Senate at the end of August 1967. He served on the Court for the next 24 years, compiling a liberal record that included strong support for Constitutional protection of individual rights, especially the rights of criminal suspects against the government. His most frequent ally on the Court (the pair rarely voted at odds) was Justice William Brennan, who consistently joined him in supporting abortion rights and opposing the death penalty. Brennan and Marshall concluded in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was, in all circumstances, unconstitutional, and never accepted the legitimacy of Gregg v. Georgia, which ruled four years later that the death penalty was constitutional in some circumstances. He made significant contributions to other areas of the law as well. In Teamsters v. Terry, he held that the 7th Amendment entitled the plaintiff to a jury trial in a suit against a labor union for breach of duty of fair representation. In TSC Industries, Inc. v. Northway, Inc., he articulated a formulation for the standard of materiality in US securities law that is still applied and used today. In Cottage Savings Association v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, he weighed in on the income tax consequences of the Savings and Loan crisis, permitting a savings and loan association to deduct a loss from an exchange of mortgage participation interests, and in Personnel Administrator MA v. Feeney, he wrote a dissent saying that a law that gave hiring preference to veterans over non-veterans was unconstitutional because of its inequitable impact on women. He retired from the US Supreme Court in October 1991 due to declining health and President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace him. He died of heart failure at the age of 84. There are numerous memorials and buildings that are dedicated to his honor. In October 2005 the major airport serving Baltimore and the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC, was renamed the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in his honor. In 1993 he posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton. He was an Episcopalian and in 2009, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church added him to the church's liturgical calendar of "Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints," designating May 17 as his feast day.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 1675
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thurgood Marshall (2 Jul 1908–24 Jan 1993), Find a Grave Memorial no. 1675, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .