Thurgood Marshall's life has spanned virtually the entire twentieth century, allowing him to witness its worst and its best. When he was born in 1908, segregation was legal and pervasive, and racial hatred extreme; in the year of his birth alone, eighty-nine black men were lynched. A grandson of slaves on both sides of his family, Marshall knew, from an early age, both the ugliness and the tenacity of racism. Determined to fight it, Marshall disregarded the difficulties and the dangers, and spent his life battling discrimination, earning the nickname "Mr. Civil Rights." His efforts, coupled with those of others in the NAACP, were largely responsible for moving this country from a segregated, ugly society toward one that is better, albeit--as the recent Rodney King events remind us--far from perfect.
As the articles in this symposium make clear, from his early college sitdown in the "whites only" orchestra section of the movies (eschewing the "nigger heaven" balcony) to his final passionate dissent on the Supreme Court, Marshall consistently championed the underdog and fought for justice. His contributions are enormous. As President Lyndon Johnson noted when he nominated him for the Supreme Court, Marshall would be a legend even if he had never sat on the Court. His efforts to outlaw segregation and fight for equality are undoubtedly among the most important accomplishments in this century.
80 Geo. L.J. 2003-2009 (1992)
Scholarly Commons Citation
Bloch, Susan Low, "Thurgood Marshall: Courageous Advocate, Compassionate Judge" (1992). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 1200.