…the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place.” (Wikipedia)
These words were spoken by President Lyndon Johnson in June 1967 when he nominated Thurgood Marshall for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. On August 30 of the same year, Marshall was not only voted to Supreme Court but became the first African American member of the Court. Marshall served on the Court for 24 years, making significant contributions to civil rights, criminal procedure, and other areas of law.
But Marshall’s career in law and impact on civil rights and social justice began long before 1967. Marshall began working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1936 and was appointed as the civil rights group’s Chief Counsel in 1940, after winning his first Supreme Court case – the first of 29 out of 32.
Marshall’s most famous Supreme Court case was the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case, in which the Court declared laws that established “separate but equal” public education as unconstitutional because, as Marshall argued to the Court, the schools would never be equal as long as they remained separate.
Marshall was also the first Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, as appointed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and the first African American United States Solicitor General, as appointed by President Johnson in 1965.