Thurgood Marshall was one of the most successful lawyers in the history of the United States. His greatest achievement in court was probably his victory in the Brown vs Board of Education case. He was also the first African American to be appointed to serve in the US Supreme Court.
Thurgood Marshall was born on the 2nd of July, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland. His grandfather was a slave, and his father, William Marshall, had taught him to abide by the law and uphold the principles of the US Constitution since he was young. In 1925, he graduated from high school, and he went on to study at the Lincoln University.
After completing his studies in Lincoln, Marshall tried to gain admission into law school at the University of Maryland, but he was rejected because he was an African American. He attended law school at the Howard University instead, and he met an influential personality there. Charles Hamilton Houston, who was the Dean of the university, was constantly encouraging his students to promote the values of the Constitution. In 1933, he graduated with a law degree, and he went to Baltimore to start a private practice.
In 1934, Marshall started working for Baltimore’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as an assistant to Charles Hamilton Houston. The following year, he represented Donald Gaines Murray, who was denied entry into the University of Maryland because he was black, in the Murray vs Pearson case. This was his first major case, and he helped Murray become the first African American student in the University of Maryland. In 1938, he was promoted to the position of NAACP special assistant, and he continued winning civil rights cases for many African Americans from different parts of the country. Later on, he was named the Chief Counsel of the NAACP.
Marshall’s most memorable victory in the Supreme Court was the Brown vs. Board of Education case, which took place in 1954. This case was a significant event in the history of American civil rights as it put an end to the practice of segregation in public education. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and four years later, he assumed the position of US Solicitor General at the request of President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1967, he became the Associate Justice to the Supreme Court.
Throughout his career, Marshall gained a lot of supporters across the country, but he also made many enemies. The southern senators as well as Robert Kennedy, who was the attorney general at that time, opposed the decision to appoint him to the Court of Appeals. Before he was appointed to the Supreme Court, Senator Strom Thurmond, a Republican from South Carolina, was doubtful about his ability to assume the position of Associate Justice. Through it all, his steely determination and calmness under pressure would help him overcome all obstacles. Marshall retired on the 27th of June, 1991, and he passed away due to a heart failure on the 24th of January, 1993.
1930: Graduates from Lincoln University with honors.
1933: Completes studies in Howard University, and goes to Baltimore to start private practice.
1934: Starts working for NAACP branch in Baltimore.
1935: Wins Murray vs Pearson, his first major victory as a civil rights lawyer.
1936: Appointed assistant special counsel for New York’s NAACP.
1940: Wins Chambers vs Florida, his first Supreme Court case.
1944: Overthrows “white primary” of the South with Smith vs Allwright victory.
1948: Convinces Supreme Court to end certain racially biased covenants with Shelley vs Kramer win.
1950: Wins two important Supreme Court cases, McLaurin vs Oklahoma State Regents and Sweatt vs Painter.
1954: Victory in Brown vs Board of Education ends racial segregation in the US.
1961: Appointed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
1965: Becomes US Solicitor General.
1967: Appointed to the US Supreme Court.
1991: End of legal career.
1993: Passes away at the age of 84.