Thurgood Marshall


Thurgood Marshall : biography

July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993

Although best remembered for jurisprudence in the fields of civil rights and criminal procedure, Marshall made significant contributions to other areas of the law as well. In Teamsters v. Terry he held that the Seventh Amendment entitled the plaintiff to a jury trial in a suit against a labor union for breach of duty of fair representation. In TSC Industries, Inc. v. Northway, Inc. he articulated a formulation for the standard of materiality in United States securities law that is still applied and used today. In Cottage Savings Association v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, he weighed in on the income tax consequences of the Savings and Loan crisis, permitting a savings and loan association to deduct a loss from an exchange of mortgage participation interests. In Personnel Administrator MA v. Feeney, Marshall wrote a dissent saying that a law that gave hiring preference to veterans over non-veterans was unconstitutional because of its inequitable impact on women.

Among his many law clerks were attorneys who went on to become judges themselves, such as Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; Judge Ralph Winter of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan; as well as notable law professors Dan Kahan, Cass Sunstein, Eben Moglen, Susan Low Bloch, Martha Minow, Rick Pildes, Paul Gewirtz, and Mark Tushnet (editor of Thurgood Marshall: His Speeches, Writings, Arguments, Opinions and Reminiscences); and law school deans Paul Mahoney of University of Virginia School of Law, and Richard Revesz of New York University School of Law. See, List of law clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Marshall retired from the Supreme Court in 1991, and was reportedly unhappy that it would fall to President George H. W. Bush to name his replacement. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Marshall.



  • 1908 – Born July 2 at Baltimore, Maryland, United States.
  • 1930 – Graduates with honors from Lincoln University (cum laude).
  • 1934 – Receives law degree from Howard University (magna cum laude) and begins private practice in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • 1934 – Begins to work for Baltimore branch of NAACP.
  • 1935 – Working with Charles Houston, wins first major civil rights case, Murray v. Pearson.
  • 1936 – Becomes assistant special counsel for NAACP in New York.
  • 1940 – Wins Chambers v. Florida, the first of twenty-nine Supreme Court victories.
  • 1943 – Won case for integration of schools in Hillburn, New York.
  • 1944 – Successfully argues Smith v. Allwright, overthrowing the South’s "white primary".
  • 1946 – Awarded Spingarn Medal from the NAACP.
  • 1948 – Wins Shelley v. Kraemer, in which Supreme Court strikes down legality of racially restrictive covenants.
  • 1950 – Wins Supreme Court victories in two graduate-school integration cases, Sweatt v. Painter and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents.
  • 1951 – Visits South Korea and Japan to investigate charges of racism in U.S. armed forces. He reported that the general practice was one of "rigid segregation."
  • 1954 – Wins Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, landmark case that demolishes legal basis for segregation in America.
  • 1956 – Wins Browder v. Gayle, ending the practice of segregation on buses and ending the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
  • 1957 – Founds and becomes the first president-director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., a nonprofit law firm separate and independent of the NAACP
  • 1961 – Defends civil rights demonstrators, winning Supreme Court victory in Garner v. Louisiana; nominated to Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President John F. Kennedy.
  • 1961 – Appointed circuit judge, makes 112 rulings, none of them reversed on certiorari by Supreme Court (1961–1965).
  • 1965 – Appointed United States Solicitor General by President Lyndon B. Johnson; wins 14 of the 19 cases he argues for the government (1965–1967).
  • 1967 – Becomes first African American named to U.S. Supreme Court (1967–1991).
  • 1991 – Retires from the Supreme Court.
  • 1992 – Receives the Liberty Medal recognizing his long history of protecting individual rights under the Constitution.
  • 1993 – Dies at age 84 in Bethesda, Maryland, near Washington, D.C.
  • 1993 – Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom, posthumously, from President Bill Clinton.

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