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Black History Month: A Thurgood Marshall Chronology

When it comes to the rights of African Americans in this country, yes there is Martin (Luther King) and there is Malcolm (X). But they weren't the only ones, not only were they not the only ones, but their efforts would have been in vain were it not for the mettle of men such as deceased Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Although he is no longer with us, his shadow he cast looms large and the hole he left in the fabric of life remains unstitched.

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 a distinguished group of 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 "Buster" Burey. Their twenty-five year marriage ended with her death from cancer in 1955.*

A Chronology of Justice Marshall's Accomplishments

1930: Mr. Marshall graduates with honors from Lincoln U. (cum laude)

1933: Receives law degree from Howard U. (magna cum laude); begins private practice in Baltimore

1934: Begins to work for Baltimore branch of NAACP

1935: With Charles Houston, wins first major civil rights case, Murray v. Pearson

1936: Becomes assistant special counsel for NAACP in New York

1940: Wins first of 29 Supreme Court victories (Chambers v. Florida)

Successfully argues Smith v. Allwright, overthrowing the South's "white primary"

Wins Shelley v. Kraemer, in which Supreme Court strikes down legality of racially restrictive covenants

1950: Wins Supreme Court victories in two graduate-school integration cases, Sweatt v. Painter and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents

1951: Visits South Korea and Japan to investigate charges of racism in U.S. armed forces. He reported that the general practice was one of "rigid segregation".

1954: Wins Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, landmark case that demolishes legal basis for segregation in America

1961: Defends civil rights demonstrators, winning Supreme Circuit Court victory in Garner v. Louisiana; nominated to Second Court of Appeals by President J.F. Kennedy

Appointed circuit judge, makes 112 rulings, all of them later upheld by Supreme Court (1961-1965)

1965: Appointed U.S. solicitor general by President Lyndon Johnson; wins 14 of the 19 cases he argues for the government (1965-1967)

1967: Becomes first African American elevated to U.S. Supreme Court (1967-1991)

1991: Retires from the Supreme Court

1993: Dies at 84**

There was a recent article on the strategic role President Lyndon Johnson played in ensuring that Thurgood Marshall became the iron-clad Justice he is renowned for today. For more on that click here.

If there's anything that needs to be added to the above timeline please feel free to add to the accomplishments in the comments below.


E.Payne is the author of Investing In An Emotional Letdown and I Didn't Invented Sex. For the past 3 years he has posted 600+ articles about fatherhood, marriage and everything in between here at Makes Me Wanna Holler.com. To learn more, click here.

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