Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993)
MSA SC 3520-2085


Born July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland.  Son of William Canfield and Norma A. (Williams) Marshall.  Attended Frederick Douglass High School; Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, A.B., 1930; Howard University School of Law, Washington, D.C., LL.B., 1933.  Admitted to the bar, 1933.  Married first wife Vivian Burey (d. February 1955), September 4, 1929; two sons, Thurgood, Jr. and John William.  Married second wife Cecilia Suyat, December 12, 1955. Died January 24, 1993, in Bethesda, Maryland. Buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

Thurgood Marshall began private law practice in Baltimore after graduation from law school in 1933.  The following year he began working for the Baltimore branch of the NAACP.  He won his first major civil rights case in 1935 with Charles Houston, Murray v. Pearson.  Only five years later in 1940 he won his first of 29 Supreme Court victories, Chambers v. Florida.  In 1940 he became chief counsel for the NAACP.  Working with fellow NAACP lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston, the first African American lawyer to win a case before the Supreme Court, he helped developed a strategy to end the racial segregation of American universities and public schools.  In 1950 he successfully argued Sweatt v. Painter, which declared "separate but equal" facilities for black professionals and
graduate students in state universities unconstitutional.  Four years later he won Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the landmark case that declared segregation of public schools illegal.  In 1961, President John F. Kennedy nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the second circuit, where his appointment was held up for several months due to opposition from several southern senators.  In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall U.S. solicitor general, and in 1967 to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he became the first African-American justice.  On the court he became known as a liberal who supported affirmative action and abortion rights and opposed the death penalty.  He served on the Supreme Court until his retirement on June 28, 1991.  He died of heart failure on January 24, 1993 at the age of 84.

During his long and distinguished career, Thurgood Marshall received many awards and citations for his outstanding contributions to the field of civil rights.  He has been called the greatest civil rights and constitutional lawyer of the twentieth century.  His son Thurgood Marshall, Jr. has worked as a lawyer on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee and as an aide to Vice President Al Gore.  His second son John became a Virginia state policeman.

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