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Thurgood Marshall is best known as the Supreme Court Justice and early advocate for pressing the nation’s courts in matters of civil rights. When he lived in New York City he was an active parishioner of St. Philip’s Church Harlem. He served on the Vestry and as Senior Warden and was a deputy to the 1964 General Convention.
Below is his biography from Holy Women, Holy Men Celebrating the Saints, Conforming to General Convention 2009 from Church Publishing, New York [Copyright © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund]
Thurgood Marshall was a distinguished American jurist and the first African American to become an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Marshall was born in 1908. He attended Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore and Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Pushed toward other professions, Marshall was determined to be an attorney. He was denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School due to its segregationist admissions policy. He enrolled and graduated magna cum laude from the Law School of Howard University in Washington.
Marshall began the practice of law in Baltimore in 1933 and began representing the local chapter of the NAACP in 1934, eventually becoming the legal counsel for the national organization. He won his first major civil rights decision in 1936, Murray v. Pearson, which
forced the University of Maryland to open its doors to blacks. At the age of 32, Marshall successfully argued his first case before the United States Supreme Court and went on to win 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the court. As a lawyer, his crowning achievement was arguing successfully for the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, in 1954. The Supreme Court ruled that the “separate but equal” doctrine was unconstitutional and ordered the desegregation of public schools across the nation.
President Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall as the 96th Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1967, a position he held for 24 years. Marshall compiled a long and impressive record of decisions on civil rights, not only for African Americans, but also for women, Native Americans, and the incarcerated; he was a strong advocate for individual freedoms and human rights. He adamantly believed that capital punishment was unconstitutional and should be abolished.
During his years in Washington, Marshall and his family were members of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, where he was affectionately known as “The Judge.” He is remembered as “a wise and godly man who knew his place and role in history and obeyed God’s call to follow justice wherever it led.”
[Published Spring 2020]