Thurgood Marshall
first African American justice of the Supreme Court

1908 - 1993

Thurgood Marshall was the first African American justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He served as an associate justice from 1967 until his retirement in 1991. Marshall was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. As a justice, Marshall took liberal positions on a wide variety of issues, including capital punishment, free speech, school desegregation, the rights of welfare recipients, and affirmative action. Marshall was born in Baltimore. He graduated from Lincoln University and studied law at Howard University. He began practicing law in 1933. From 1938 to 1950, Marshall served as chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). From 1940 to 1961, he was director and chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Marshall presented the legal argument that resulted in the 1954 Supreme Court decision that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. In 1961, Marshall was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals. In 1965, he was appointed solicitor general of the United States. Marshall won the Spingarn Medal in 1946.

Contributor: Owen M. Fiss, LL.B., Sterling Prof. of Law, Yale Univ.


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