Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice
Larry S. Gibson
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Thurgood Marshall was the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century. He transformed the nation's legal landscape by challenging the racial segregation that had relegated millions to second-class citizenship. He won twenty-nine of thirty-three cases before the United States Supreme Court, was a federal appeals court judge, served as the US solicitor general, and, for twenty-four years, sat on the Supreme Court.
Marshall is best known for achievements after he relocated to New York in 1936 to work for the NAACP. But Marshall's personality, attitudes, priorities, and work habits had crystallized during earlier years in Maryland.
This work is the first close examination of the formative period in Marshall's life. As the authorn shows, Thurgood Marshall was a fascinating man of contrasts. He fought for racial justice without becoming a racist. Simultaneously idealistic and pragmatic, Marshall was a passionate advocate, yet he maintained friendly relationships with his opponents.
Young Thurgood reveals how Marshall's distinctive traits were molded by events, people, and circumstances early in his life. Professor Gibson presents fresh information about Marshall's family, youth, and education. He describes Marshall's key mentors, the special impact of his high school and college competitive debating, his struggles to establish a law practice during the Great Depression, and his first civil rights cases. The author sheds new light on the NAACP and its first lawsuits in the campaign that led to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision. He also corrects some of the often-repeated stories about Marshall that are inaccurate.
The only biography of Thurgood Marshall to be endorsed by Marshall’s immediate family, Young Thurgood is an exhaustively researched and engagingly written work that everyone interested in law, civil rights, American history, and biography will want to read.
that he might take it to New York and hold a memorial meeting over it in order to incite race prejudice.” 36. In re Ades, 6 F. Supp. 467 (D. Md. 1934); “Bernard Ades Is Reprimanded by Court,” Afro-American, March 24, 1934. 37. Houston to the editor of the Afro-American, telegram, March 19, 1934, Charles Houston Papers, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University. 38. “Bernard Ades Calls Bar Group Inconsistent and Says Dr. Houston is a ‘Tent Sulker,’” Afro-American, May 12, 1934. 39.
easiest thing in the world for him to make friends with people, and he could argue and talk like a professional. As a youngster he liked animals, was friendly with everybody in the street, and liked to read western stories and listen to them on the radio…. If he saw a stray cat or dog, he was ready to take it home.”23 At one time, his pets included a cat named Kitty, a dog called Mike, and a white rat with pink ears he called Willie. He taught them to tolerate each other and eventually succeeded
family could finance Thurgood's college education. His brother Aubrey was about to enter his senior year at Lincoln University, and most of Aubrey's tuition and fees for his junior year remained as yet unpaid. Fearful that Lincoln might reject Thurgood's application for financial reasons, Norma asked Reverend W. W Walker, a Lincoln University alumnus who lived a few doors away to intercede. Reverend Walker's letter to the acting university president began by putting in a good word for the
tin box containing index cards bearing the names of his clients. Costonie became Marshall's first documented client, as Marshall placed into the file box a card with the words “Kiowa Costonie Personal Attorney” and Costonie's telephone number. From that point on, Marshall played a prominent role in the Buy Where You Can Work effort. He joined the citizens’ committee that Costonie formed to support the campaign, attended organizing meetings, and provided legal advice. He threatened to sue a
somebody who was white.”6 Marshall's wife, Vivian, found only sporadic work and was often unemployed. On March 24, 1936, Marshall wrote to Joseph Evans, one of his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brothers in Washington, D.C., seeking employment for his wife: My wife, Vivian Marshall, was over to see you last weekend concerning a position in the White Collar Survey or some other Federal Project in Maryland. She was unable to reach you on Saturday because of the fact that she could not locate the