Biography for Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall, the first African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, built a remarkable legal career on the premise that all forms of racial segregation were unconstitutional. Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended segregated public schools and graduated from Lincoln University in 1930 and Howard University Law School in 1933. He established a private practice and immediately volunteered his services to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to fight for civil rights cases. In his capacity as special counsel to the NAACP's legal defense fund, Marshall was a leader in the organization's attack on state segregation laws, especially in the field of education. Marshall argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and won all but three of them. He also helped write the briefs for 11 other cases. His efforts helped to obtain most of the major Supreme Court decisions that provided for orderly civil rights change in America during the 1950s and 1960s. Cases he argued secured voting rights for all qualified persons regardless of race, obtained the admission of minority students to state law schools, abolished segregation on interstate buses, and ended state-supported housing agreements that allowed segregation. His most dramatic success occurred in arguing Brown v. Board of Education (1954). This landmark case, which gave impetus to the civil rights movement, overturned the separate but equal doctrine that the Supreme Court had upheld in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). In 1961, Marshall was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, second circuit, by President John F. Kennedy. He was named solicitor general four years later and served in that post until 1967, when President Lyndon B. Johnson chose Marshall to become the first African-American justice of the Supreme Court. As a Supreme Court justice, Marshall consistently voted to end economic, political, and social injustices experienced by minorities. During the more conservative years of Ronald Reagan's presidency, Marshall continued to represent the minority, liberal faction on the Court. He strongly advocated a major role for the federal government in ensuring that the goal of obtaining meaningful equality for all Americans is not left up to state and local governments. Marshall retired in 1991 and died on January 24, 1993.