Today is the 50th anniversary of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s swearing-in as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States on October 2, 1967. He was the Court’s 96th justice and the first African American to hold a seat on the Supreme Court.
Justice Marshall had a monumentally successful career arguing before the Supreme Court. As President Johnson noted, “Marshall is already in the front ranks of the great lawyers of this generation. He has argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court; he has won 29 of them. And that is a batting average of .900.” Marshall is just as famous for his role as counsel in several landmark civil rights cases, among them Shelly v. Kraemer (334 U.S. 1 (1948)), Smith v. Allwright (321 U.S. 649 (1944)), and Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka et al. (347 U.S. 483 (1954)). An earlier case, heard in the Maryland Court of Appeals, had some personal touchstones: The Board of Regents of the University of Maryland v. Donald G. Murray. Marshall himself was denied admittance to the University of Maryland Law School on the basis of race, so he attended Howard University School of Law. However, he succeeded in getting Murray admitted to the university.As Maryland’s most illustrious citizen in the legal profession, the state dedicated a memorial to Justice Marshall on Lawyer’s Mall in front of the Maryland State House in Annapolis. The statue of Marshall is surrounded by an archway that is engraved with the words, “Equal Justice Under Law”, and facing his statue across a brief courtyard are two benches. On one bench is a statue of two schoolchildren and the words “Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka et al.” and on the other is a statue of Donald G. Murray, with the name of his case. The sculpture courtyard is thoughtful praise of the accomplishments and deeds of the man who wrote, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”