Thurgood Marshall sat on the highest court in America as . . . Associate Supreme Court Justice. This was a time, even though many laws were passed that did not support people of color, it was still viewed as a non-partisan court by most Americans. Today however, that is not the case. The current Supreme Court is seen by many people as conservative (Republican), and has weakened laws that supported equality and justice.

Who was Thurgood Marshall? He was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908 to Norma Arica Williams and William Canfield Marshall, both descendants of slaves. His original name was Thoroughgood, but he shortened it to Thurgood. From early childhood, his parents instilled in him a deep respect for the rule of law.

After graduating from Howard University, young Thurgood established a private law practice, argued several cases before the Supreme Court and became Founder of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Court and in 1967, was nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the Supreme Court.


Associate Justice Marshall’s motto on the Supreme Court was: “You do what you think is right, and let the law catch-up.” Many times, that motto was in conflict with the conservative view of the court. As what many considered too “liberal,” he supported individual rights, civil rights, abortion rights and opposed the death penalty. His view of Constitutional protection for individual rights is well documented. Once he said at a bicentennial celebration: “the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war and major social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today.”

Thurgood Marshall retired from the Supreme Court in 1991 because of failing health, and died in 1993 from heart failure at the age of 84. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


Several memorials around the country pay tribute to Justice Thurgood Marshall. Among them are the 8 ft. statue in the Maryland State House, the law school at Texas Southern University, and the primary office building for the federal court, located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Supreme Court Justice Marshall was married two times: Vivian Burey and after her death, Cecilia Suyat. He had two sons: Thurgood Marshall Jr. and John W. Marshall.