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Thurgood Marshall

November 14, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

Thurgood Marshall — perhaps best known as the first African-American Supreme Court justice — played an instrumental role in promoting racial equality during the civil rights movement and beyond. As a practicing attorney, Marshall argued a record-breaking 32 cases before the Supreme Court, winning 29 of them. In fact, Marshall represented and won more cases before the high court than any other American. During his 24-year term as Supreme Court justice, Marshall’s passionate support for individual and civil rights guided his policies and decisions. Most historians recount him as an influential figure in shaping social policies and upholding laws to protect minorities.

Early Life and Education

Thurgood Marshall was born on July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, Maryland. His father, William Marshall, was a railroad porter, and his mother, Norma, was a teacher.

After he completed high school in 1925, Marshall attended Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Just before he graduated, he married his first wife, Vivian “Buster” Burey.

In 1930, Marshall applied to the University of Maryland School of Law but was rejected because he was black. He then decided to attend Howard University Law School, where he became a protégé of the well-known dean, Charles Hamilton Houston, who encouraged students to use the law as a means for social transformation.

In 1933, Marshall received his degree and was ranked first in his class. After graduation from Howard, Marshall opened a private practice law firm in Baltimore.

Life as a Lawyer

In 1935, Marshall’s first major court victory came in Murray v. Pearson, when he, alongside his mentor Houston, successfully sued the University of Maryland for denying a black applicant admission to its law school because of his race.

Shortly after this legal success, Marshall became a staff lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was eventually named chief of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Marshall became recognized as a one of the top attorneys in the United States, winning 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.

Some of Marshall’s notable cases included:

  • Chambers v. Florida (1940): Marshall successfully defended four convicted black men who were coerced by police into confessing to murder.
  • Smith v. Allwright (1944): In this decision, the …read more

    Source: HISTORY

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