Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Donald Gaines Murray (1913-1986)
MSA SC 3520-12494


Born May 24, 1913, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Son of George Lee Murray and Cecilia Lillian Gaines Murray.  Attended Douglass High School, graduated 1929; Lincoln College; Amherst College; University of Maryland School of Law, LL.B., 1938.  Married Rosa Langley Walker, November 17, 1939; three children: Donald Gaines Murray, Jr., Alfred Walker Gaines, and John Gaines.  Last residence was 2016 Bryant Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland, 21217.  Died in Baltimore on April 7, 1986, of a heart attack.  Buried in Maryland National Cemetery, Baltimore.

Donald Gaines Murray was the subject of the court case University v. Murray, 169 Md. 478 (1936).  On April 20, 1935, Murray filed suit in the Baltimore City Court, and petitioned for the issuance of a writ of mandamus that would require he be admitted to the segregated University of Maryland School of Law, a school he had been denied entrance to due to his race. One of Murray's attorneys was future U.S. Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, who argued that the law school was in violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  He believed that Murray was denied "separate but equal" treatment because there was no law school in Maryland which admitted African Americans, and therefore, no equal facilities for African Americans to study law in Maryland.  Judge Eugene O'Dunne agreed that the University of Maryland's policy was unconstitutional and ordered that a mandamus be issued.  Lawyers for the University filed an appeal, and Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Carroll T. Bond wrote in the Court's opinion that in order to accommodate Plessy v. Ferguson, Murray could attend the institution, but he had to remain separated from white students.  Murray became the first black student to attend the University of Maryland School of Law after the school segregated itself in 1891.  Accompanied to campus by Thurgood Marshall, Murray found students willing to sit next to him in class and to study with him.

After graduating from law school, Murray became an investigator for the Baltimore City Housing Authority.  During World War II, he served with the army in Europe.  Upon his return to Maryland after the War, he became a partner in the firm of Murray, Douglass and Perkins, and worked on many cases involving the NAACP.  Later in his life, from 1979 to 1983, he worked as a legal aid.   He was an active member of the Baltimore NAACP, the Urban League, the ACLU, the Monumental Bar Association, and the Guardsmen, and was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

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