Thurgood Marshall


Thurgood Marshall : biography

July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993

Thurgood Marshall Award

The Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico instituted in 1993 the annual Thurgood Marshall Award, given to the top student in civil rights at each of Puerto Rico’s four law schools. The awardees are selected by the Commonwealth’s Attorney General and includes a $500 monetary award.

Books authored

Early life

Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 2, 1908. He was the great-grandson of a slave who was born in the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo;Kallen (1993), p. 8 his grandfather was also a slave. His original name was Thoroughgood, but he shortened it to Thurgood in second grade because he disliked spelling it. His father, William Marshall, who was a railroad porter, and his mother Norma, a teacher, instilled in him an appreciation for the Constitution of the United States and the rule of law."" A Deeper Shade of Black.


Marshall attended Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore and was placed in the class with the best students. He graduated a year early in 1925 with a B-grade average, and placed in the top third of the class. Subsequently he went to Lincoln University. It is commonly reported that he intended to study medicine and become a dentist. But according to his application to Lincoln University, Marshall stated that his goal was to become a lawyer. Other alumni at Lincoln University at the same time as Marshall were poet Langston Hughes, musician Cab Calloway and future president of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah. Initially he did not take his studies seriously, and was suspended twice for hazing and pranks against fellow students. He was not politically active at first, becoming a "star" of the debating team and in his freshman year opposed the integration of African-American professors at the university. Hughes later described him as "rough and ready, loud and wrong". ISBN 9780870675843 In his second year he got involved in a sit-in protest against segregation at a local movie theatre. In this same year, he was initiated as a member of the first black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. His marriage to Vivien Burey in September 1929 encouraged him to take his studies seriously, and he graduated from Lincoln with honors (cum laude) Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, with a major in American literature and 7 & 8

Marshall wanted to study in his hometown law school, the University of Maryland School of Law, but did not apply because of the school’s segregation policy. Marshall instead attended Howard University School of Law, where he worked harder than he had at Lincoln and his views on discrimination were heavily influenced by the dean Charles Hamilton Houston. In 1933 he graduated from there first in his class. Three years later, Marshall would successfully represent his client bringing suit against the University of Maryland Law School for its policy, ending segregation there (see Murray v. Pearson).

Law career

Marshall set up a private practice in Baltimore in 1936. That year, he began working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Baltimore.

He won his first major civil rights case, Murray v. Pearson, 169 Md. 478 (1936). This was the first challenge of the "separate but equal" doctrine that was part of the Plessy v. Ferguson decision. His co-counsel on the case, Charles Hamilton Houston, developed the strategy. Marshall represented Donald Gaines Murray, a black Amherst College graduate with excellent credentials, who was denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School because of its segregation policy. Black students in Maryland wanting to study law had to accept one of three options, attend: Morgan College, the Princess Anne Academy, or out-of-state black institutions.

In 1935, Thurgood Marshall argued the case for Murray, showing that neither of the in-state institutions offered a law school and that such schools were entirely unequal in quality to the University of Maryland. Marshall and Houston expected to lose and intended to appeal to the federal courts. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled against the state of Maryland and its Attorney General, who represented the University of Maryland, stating, "Compliance with the Constitution cannot be deferred at the will of the state. Whatever system is adopted for legal education must furnish equality of treatment now." While it was a moral victory, the state court’s ruling had no authority outside of Maryland.