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Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall 1908 - 1993

Credit: The Ohio State University

Thurgood Marshall served as chief counsel for the NAACP. He has one of the most iconic legal backgrounds in U.S. History. In 1954, Marshall gained national prominence after he successfully argued on behalf of the petitioner in the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education.

Marshall was later named to the highest court in the land – becoming the first black person to sit on the Supreme Court. His 24 years of service on the court are a tribute to his Civil Rights origins. His appointment did not deter his progressive roots. Marshall remained steadfast in the pursuit of equality and justice for all, throughout his tenure.

Marshall’s personal experience with racial discrimination as a native of Baltimore, Maryland motivated his decision to pursue justice and dedicate his life to Civil Rights. Prohibited from accessing bathrooms or attending the top law school on his list, Marshall was destined to correct the worst vestige of our past – slavery.

After earning his law degree from Howard University and trying Civil Rights cases, Marshall argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court. These 32 cases were more than any person had argued before the high court in U.S. history. From there, President Kennedy named Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Four years later, President Lyndon Johnson named Marshall U.S. solicitor general. Then just two years after this appointment, noting it was, “the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place,” Johnson named Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court.

‘If at first you don’t succeed…dissent and dissent again.’ Unfortunately for advocates of equal treatment, Marshall often found himself on the losing side. But in Marshall’s eyes, win, lose, or draw, justice ought to prevail. Thus, he dissented!

Perhaps Supreme Court historians will first acknowledge Marshall’s contribution to the court being that of contention and opposition. But most importantly, they will note Marhsall’s tireless efforts to protect people of color from mistreatment, women from abusive government overreach, abolishment of the death penalty, and other “radical” values meant to protect and preserve liberty. 

Cathay Williams

Cathay Williams

Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson