I'm drawn to the Supreme Court, family disposition I suppose. I've also been leaning pretty heavily on "this day in history" events to craft my Daily Doodles. Yesterday was full of inspiring events, so imagine my glee upon discovering today is also a powerful day in history.
On June 13, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Thurgood Marshall to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Associate Justice Tom C. Clark. On August 30, 1967 the Senate confirmed Marshall’s nomination by a vote of 69 to 11. Two days later, he was sworn in by Chief Justice Earl Warren, making him the first African American in history to sit on America’s highest court.
The great-grandson of slaves, Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, July 2, 1908. In 1933, after studying under civil liberties lawyer Charles H. Houston, he received his law degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. He was top of his class. In 1936, he joined the legal division of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), of which Houston was director, and two years later succeeded his mentor in the organization’s top legal post.
As the NAACP’s chief counsel from 1938 to 1961, he argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, successfully challenging racial segregation, most notably in public education. He won 29 of these cases, including the groundbreaking victory in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court ruled that segregation violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and was thus illegal. The decision served as a great momentum for the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and ultimately led to the abolishment of segregation in all public facilities and accommodations.
After Brown, Marshall argued many more court cases in support of civil rights. His zeal for ensuring the rights of all citizens regardless of race caught the attention of President John F. Kennedy, who appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1961. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the post of Solicitor General, where he was the first African American to hold this position. In June 1967, President Johnson nominated him to the Supreme Court, and in late August he was confirmed.
Associate Justice Marshall consistently challenged discrimination based on race or sex, opposed the death penalty, and supported the rights of criminal defendants. He also defended affirmative action and women’s right to reproductive freedom. He retired in 1991 after serving 24 years on the high court. Thurgood Marshall died in 1993, leaving behind a legacy that earned him the nickname "Mr. Civil Rights." Before his funeral, his flag-draped casket was laid in state in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court. He was only the second justice to be given this honor.