Thurgood Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother was a teacher and father a headwaiter and country club steward. He attended Lincoln University where he received his bachelor's degree cum laude. From there he enrolled in the law school at Howard University in 1930 and graduated magna cum laude in 1933.
After passing the bar in 1933, Marshall practiced in Baltimore until 1938. While there, he served as council for the NAACP. In 1935, he successfully attacked segregation and discrimination in education. He participated in the desegregation of the University of Maryland Law School, from which he had been earlier denied admission.
Marshall and his aides won an astounding 29 of the 32 civil rights cases they argued in front of the Supreme Court. Some of the more famous and ground breaking cases that Marshall participated in resulted in constitutional precedents. Here's a handful of them and a brief synopsis.
Smith v.Allwright (1944) - established the right of African Americans to vote in Democratic primary elections
Morgan v. Virginia [(1946) - outlawed the state's segregation policy as applied to interstate bus transportation
Shelley v. Kramer (1948) - outlawed restictive covenants in housing
Sweatt v. Painter (1950) - required admission of an African American student to the University of Texas Law School
and last but not least......
Brown v. Board of Education (1954) - outlawed segregation in public schools and for all practical purposes sounded the death knell for legally sanctioned segregation.
The NAACP sent Marshall to Japan and Korea in 1951 to investigate complaints that African American soldiers convicted by U.S. Army courts martial had not received fair trials. His appeals resulted in reduction in sentences in 22 of the 40 cases he tried.
In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson nominated Marshall as associate justice to the Supreme Court. Although opposed by several southern senators in the Judiciary Committee, Marshall's nomination was confirmed by a vote of 69-11.
During nearly 25 years on the Supreme Court, he remained a strong advocate of individual rights and never veered from his stance on ending discrimination. He particicipated in majority decisions in such areas as a woman's right to choose, ecology, right of appeal of those convicted on narcotics charges, failure to report for and submit induction to the U. S. Armed forces, obsenity and the rights of Native Americans.
Given that the Court's liberal influence had already dwindled during the Reagan -Bush years, Marshall grew more and more dismayed. In 1987, Marshall was quoted in Ebony magazine that Reagan was "the bottom" in terms of his commitment to black Americans. He was also quoted as saying "I wouldn't do the job of dogcatcher for Ronald Reagan."
When his liberal counterpart, Justice William J. Brennan retired from the court due to ill health, Marshall vowed to serve until he was 110 and then die - "shot by a jealous husband.". However heart attacks, pneumonia, blood clots and glaucoma took its toll and Marshall retired his seat in 1991. He died in 1993 at the age of 84.