Thurgood Marshall: On the Bench

Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993)

Thurgood Marshall: Early Years

Thurgood Marshall: The NAACP Years

President John F. Kennedy nominated Thurgood Marshall to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in 1961. He then received a recess appointment in October 1961, and his nomination was confirmed by the Senate on September 11, 1962. Of the 150 opinions he authored after his appointment to the Second Circuit, not one was overturned. President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Justice Marshall as solicitor general of the United States on June 13, 1965. He assumed the office of solicitor general on August 24, 1965.

Judge Thurgood Marshall was the first African American to serve as solicitor general of the United States. President Johnson nominated Marshall to the bench of the Supreme Court as associate justice on June 13, 1967. The Senate confirmed his nomination on August 30, 1967; he took the oath of office on October 2, 1967.

Justice Marshall was appointed during Chief Justice Earl Warren’s tenure. During this period, Associate Justice Marshall consistently joined with his liberal colleagues on the Supreme Court in most of its 99 opinions. Justice Marshall dissented in 6; concurred in 3; and joined in the majority opinion on 66 cases. He wrote 11 majority opinions in this period. As the Warren Court gave way to the Burger Court (1969–1986), Justice Marshall voted as a dissenter in 754 decisions with opinions and 183 in memorandum decisions, for a total of 937 dissenting votes.

Justice Marshall’s service to the government of the United States, like his role as lawyer and judge, was filled with activity. In 1951, he investigated courtmartial cases involving African American soldiers in both Japan and Korea. Marshall served as a consultant at the Constitutional Conference of Kenya in London in 1961 and as the U.S. representative to the independence ceremonies of Sierra Leone in 1961. He was also the chief of the U.S. delegation to the Third United Nations Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders in Stockholm, Sweden, in August 1965. President Harry S. Truman appointed Marshall to represent the United States at the laying of the cornerstone ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Center for the Advancement of Peace. He was a member of numerous boards and the recipient of many prestigious national and international medals, awards, and citations for his tireless pursuits in the field of civil rights.

Suffering from poor health, Justice Thurgood Marshall submitted his resignation from the Supreme Court on June 27, 1991. His career as a justice of the court did not end with his resignation. For a brief period of time, the Court by special order assigned Justice Marshall to perform judicial duties in the Second Circuit in 1992 and to hear cases in the Fourth Circuit. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall died on January 24, 1993, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.