The Making of a Supreme Court Justice: Biography of Thurgood Marshall

Pages: 6 (2442 words) Published: February 24, 2014

Gibson Larry S, Young Thurgood: The Making Of A Supreme Court Justice 59 John Glen Drive: Amherst, New York 14228-2119. 2012, Pp.413.

Thurgood Marshall was born on July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the second child born. His father, William Marshall, the grandson of a slave, worked as a steward at an exclusive club. His mother, Norma, was a kindergarten teacher. One of William Marshall's favorite pastimes was to listen to cases at the local courthouse before returning home to rehash the lawyers arguments with his sons. His family enjoyed a comfortable, middle class existence. Marshall's parents placed great emphasis on education, encouraging Thurgood and his brother to think and learn. Whenever Thurgood got into trouble at school, he was made to memorize sections of the U.S. Constitution. This punishment would serve him well in his later legal career. Thurgood Marshall later recalled, "Now you want to know how I got involved in law? I don't know. The nearest I can get is that my dad, my brother, and I had the most violent arguments you ever heard about anything. I guess we argued five out of seven nights at the dinner table.

Marshall attended Baltimore's Colored High and Training School later renamed Frederick Douglass High School, where he was an above average student and put his finely honored skills of argument to use as a star member of the debate team. One of Marshall’s bestfriends during his years at that school was Calvin Roach. They shared a love of debating, and the two young men constantly tested their persuasive skills against each other. The teenaged Marshall was also something of a mischievous troublemaker. His greatest high school accomplishment, was memorizing the entire United States Constitution. After graduating from high school in 1926, Marshall attended Lincoln University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania. There, he joined a remarkably distinguished student body that included Kwame Nkrumah, the future president of Ghana Langston Hughes, the great poet and Cab Calloway, the famous jazz singer.

Marshall was on the debate team with other blacks, he joined a fraternity the Alpha Phi Alpha. He participated and so many events and was one of the greatest on the debate squad. You couldn’t get nothing pass Thurgood, he was just that good, young and educated knowing a lot coming out of High School. Everything his father did and taught him really helped Thurgood throughout life.

After graduating from Lincoln with honors in 1930, Marshall applied to the University Of Maryland Law School. Despite being overqualified academically, Marshall was rejected because of his race. This firsthand experience with discrimination in education made a lasting impression on Marshall and helped determine the future course of his career. Instead of Maryland, Marshall attended law school in Washington, D.C. at Howard University, another historically black school. The dean of Howard Law School at the time was the pioneering civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall quickly fell under the tutelage of Houston, a notorious disciplinarian and extraordinarily demanding professor. Marshall recalled of Houston, "He would not be satisfied until he went to a dance on the campus and found all of his students sitting around the wall reading law books instead of partying." Marshall graduated magna cum laude from Howard in 1933.

After graduating from law school, Marshall briefly attempted to establish his own practice in Baltimore, but without experience he failed to land any significant cases. In 1934, he began working for the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In one of Marshall's first cases which he argued alongside his mentor, Charles Houston he defended another well qualified undergraduate, Donald Murray, who like himself had been denied entrance to the University of Maryland Law School. Marshall and Houston won Murray v. Pearson in January 1936, the...
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