Marcus Vaden Law - February 2020

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Life Lessons From the Story of JusticeThurgoodMarshall Honoring Justice Marshall During Black History Month

in the United States. Most notably, in one of his first cases, Murray

February is Black History Month, and we thought it would be an excellent opportunity to highlight the life and work of Thurgood Marshall, the first black Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Justice Marshall is best known for his success in the case Brown v. Board of Education, but looking at his life’s work, we can learn a lot from his perseverance, determination, and willpower. Justice Thurgood Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 2, 1908. When he and his brother weren’t in school, his father took them to watch court cases. Afterword, they would debate them and other current events at dinner, and this unique upbringing changed Justice Marshall’s life. During these dinner table debates, Justice Marshall’s father, William, challenged him to justify and prove every point he made. According to “Thurgood Marshall: A Biography,” Justice Marshall would later state that his father “never told me to become a lawyer, he turned me into one.” The “aha!”moment for Justice Marshall becoming a lawyer came sometime between adolescence and sending college applications. In his application to Lincoln University, he stated how determined he was to become a lawyer. Although he wasn’t initially politically active on campus, he left the school with a drive to secure equal rights for people of color in America. In fact, during his sophomore year, Justice Marshall participated in sit-in protests and led the campaign for the integration of black professors at Lincoln. From there, Justice Marshall attended Howard University School of Law, but it came with a hefty price tag. His mother had to pawn off her wedding and engagement rings to pay for tuition. Luckily, the risk paid off: He graduated first in his class. After graduating from law school, Justice Marshall opened his own law firm and began his 25-year relationship with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Over his decades’ long association with the NAACP, he argued an assortment of cases in front of the Supreme Court that paved the way for equal rights for people of color

v. Pearson, Justice Marshall argued that the University of Maryland Law School’s segregation

policy violated the “separate but equal” doctrine stated in Plessy v. Ferguson. This abolished the segregation policy and enabled individuals of all races to apply and

attend colleges of their choosing. The argument strategy he used, developed

by Nathan Margold, became the basis for Justice Marshall’s case in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Safe to say, the long debates with his father at the dinner table paid off. Years later, Justice Marshall was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He served in that position for four years until President Johnson appointed him to be the United States Solicitor General. Three years later, President Johnson nominated him to the Supreme Court. Justice Thurgood Marshall served on the U.S. Supreme Court till his retirement in 1991. His determination, commitment, and perseverance still shape our court system today.

-Marcus Vaden

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