On October 2, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first African-American associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. The occasion was a historic moment for Marshall and the entire nation, as it marked a significant milestone in the ongoing struggle for civil rights and equality.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1908, Marshall was the son of a railroad porter and a schoolteacher. He attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and then Howard University Law School, where he earned his law degree in 1933. After graduation, Marshall opened a law practice in Baltimore and quickly established himself as a leading civil rights lawyer, taking on cases that challenged segregation and discrimination.
In 1938, Marshall joined the legal staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and became its chief counsel in 1940. Over the next two decades, he argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court, including the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954, which declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.
Marshall’s appointment to the Supreme Court was not without controversy. President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated him in 1967, but many senators opposed the appointment, citing his record as a civil rights lawyer and his association with the NAACP. However, after a contentious confirmation process, the Senate voted 69-11 to confirm Marshall as an associate justice.
During his twenty-four years on the Supreme Court, Marshall was known for his outspoken advocacy for civil rights and his commitment to interpreting the Constitution in a way that protected individual liberties and promoted equality. He authored several landmark decisions, including United States v. Virginia, which struck down the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admissions policy, and McCleskey v. Kemp, which challenged racial bias in the death penalty.
Marshall retired from the Supreme Court in 1991 and died in 1993 at the age of eighty-four. His legacy as a civil rights champion and legal pioneer lives on, inspiring generations of lawyers and activists to fight for justice and equality for all.