Thurgood Marshall

From KeyWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall is a late Supreme Court of the United States Justice. His son is Thurgood Marshall Jr.. Justice Marshall died on January 24, 1993.[1]

Early life

Born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908, Thurgood Marshall was the grandson of a slave. His father, William Marshall, instilled "in him from youth an appreciation for the United States Constitution and the rule of law". After completing high school in 1925, Thurgood followed his brother, William Aubrey Marshall, at the historically black Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania. His classmates at Lincoln included future Black leaders such as the poet and author Langston Hughes, the future President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, and musician Cab Calloway. Just before graduation, he married his first wife, Vivian Burey. Their twenty-five year marriage ended with her death from cancer in 1955.[2]

Early legal career

In 1930, Marshall applied to the University of Maryland Law School, but was denied admission because he was Black. He was then accepted at the Howard University Law School that same year and came under the immediate influence of the new dean, Charles Hamilton Houston, who "instilled in all of his students the desire to apply the tenets of the Constitution to all Americans". Paramount in Houston's outlook was the need to overturn the 1898 Supreme Court ruling, Plessy v. Ferguson which established the legal doctrine called, "separate but equal." Marshall's first major court case came in 1933 when he successfully sued the University of Maryland to admit a young African American Amherst University graduate named Donald Gaines Murray. Applauding Marshall's victory, author H.L. Mencken wrote that the decision of denial by the University of Maryland Law School was "brutal and absurd," and they should not object to the "presence among them of a self-respecting and ambitious young Afro-American well prepared for his studies by four years of hard work in a class A college."[3]


Thurgood Marshall followed his Howard University mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston to New York and later became Chief Counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. During this period, Mr. Marshall was asked by the United Nations and the United Kingdom to help draft the constitutions of the emerging African nations of Ghana and what is now Tanzania.[4]

George B. Murphy, Jr. was the Afro American's correspondent in Harlem during the 1930s when he met and befriended Benjamin J. Davis, helping in his successful campaign for a seat on the New York City Council, the "first Communist Councilman from Harlem.".

Murphy was then immersed in the work of the NAACP, listed in the NAACP archives as a "principal correspondent" in many of the organization's activities alongside Thurgood Marshall, later the first African American Supreme Court Justice, the great contralto, Marian Anderson and other leaders.[5]

ACLU Member

As at Feb. 8, 1946, Thurgood Marshall served on the Board of Directors for the American Civil Liberties Union.[6]

The Sweatt case

Heman Sweatt (1912-1982), was a black postal worker from Houston who was denied admission to the University of Texas School of Law in 1946.

The NAACP legal team, led by Thurgood Marshall, carried the legal battle to the United States Supreme Court, which struck down the system of "separate but equal" graduate school education and paved the way for the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Heman Sweatt's cause was championed by several Texan activists including Communist Party USA member John Stanford.

In a 2004 profile of Stanford, the Communist Party paper Peoples Weekly World, revealed that Sweatt was a secret Party member at the time.

Members of the Communist Party customarily don’t reveal the names of members or former members who are still alive. But Sweatt’s death has freed Stanford to declare that at the time of the suit, Sweatt, too, was a Communist Party member. Unlike Sweatt, Stanford was never closeted, even if it was because he had little choice, thanks to the Texas Legislature and the Houston police.

Saved by a communist

In October 1991, New York Communist Party USA supporter Arthur Zipser, wrote a letter to the Peoples Weekly World on an alleged incident involving Thurgood Marshall and communist journalist Harry Raymond. According to Zipser, Marshall had been traveling in the U.S. South in 1946. Raymond had been sent by the then Communist Party paper, the Daily Worker to cover a tense racial situation in Columbia Tennessee, where two young black men had allegedly been killed by police.

One of the two attorneys the NAACP had sent to Columbus was Thurgood Marshall, who according to communist connected historian, Herbert Shapiro had a narrow escape from death after being arrested on "trumped up charges of drunk driving." Marshall's life was most likely saved only due to the fact that his colleague foiled the arrest vehicle.[7]

"Reporter Harry Raymond, who was riding in the car with Marshall, was certain that plans to go ahead with a lynching were afoot".

National Lawyers Guild

New York City based National Lawyers Guild national executive board members at December 1949 were:[8]


In 1959, Kenyan independence activist Tom Mboya visited the U.S. and met Thurgood Marshall. Mboya was so impressed with Marshall that he invited him to Kenya to help draft a new constitution for independent Kenya. Kenya at that time was getting ready to get independence from Britain. In fact it is Marshall's friendship with Mboya that is credited with the huge wave of Kenyan students coming to the U.S. for further studies beginning in the 1960s. Marshall visited Kenya in 1960 on Mboya's invitation. His visit however didn't sit well with the Brits and the Americans, who considered him a radical. Under pressure from the British, the Kenyans barred Marshall from attending the conference. From Kenya, Marshall traveled to London, England where he continued to lobby for the Kenyan cause.[11]

Modjeska Simkins connection

Modjeska Simkins' guests included Thurgood Marshall, who stayed here when hotels in the city were closed to African Americans.[12]

Supreme Court

After amassing an impressive record of Supreme Court challenges to state-sponsored discrimination, including the landmark Brown v. Board decision in 1954, President John F. Kennedy appointed Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In this capacity, he wrote over 150 decisions including support for the rights of immigrants, limiting government intrusion in cases involving illegal search and seizure, double jeopardy, and right to privacy issues. Biographers Michael Davis and Hunter Clark note that, "none of his (Marshall's) 98 majority decisions was ever reversed by the Supreme Court." In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson appointed Judge Marshall to the office of U.S. Solicitor General. Before his subsequent nomination to the United States Supreme Court in 1967, Thurgood Marshall won 14 of the 19 cases he argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of the government. Indeed, Thurgood Marshall represented and won more cases before the United States Supreme Court than any other American. He retired from the Supreme court in 1991.[13]


  1. [1] Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall College bio, accessed July 1, 2010
  2. [2] Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall College bio, accessed July 1, 2010
  3. [3] Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall College bio, accessed July 1, 2010
  4. [4] Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall College bio, accessed July 1, 2010
  5. Black History Month: Peoples World, George B. Murphy, Jr., journalist for the people, Tim Wheeler February 17 2011
  6. Letter from Ernie Adamson, Chief Counsel, ACLU to Hon. Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., Feb. 8, 1946
  7. PWW, October 12, 1991, page 18
  8. House Report No.3 123, Report on the national lawyers Guild, national bulwark of the Communist Party, September 17, 1950, page 19
  9. Passport Reorganization Act of 1959, Hearings, U.S. Senate Government Operations Committee, Special Subcommittee, on S. 2095, 'Passport Reorganization Act of 1959, August 26, 27 and Sept. 1, 1959, pp. 312-314, decision and footnotes.
  10. The KGB Against the "Main Enemy" - How The Soviet Intelligence Service Operates Against the United States, Romerstein & Levchenko,Arlington Books, 1989
  11. [5] Thurgood Marshall bio, Inc., 2002, Accessed July 1, 2010
  12. [ Monteith Simkins (1899-1992), civil rights advocate]
  13. [6] Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall College bio, accessed July 1, 2010