Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thurgood Marshall. Mr Civil Rights.

Thurgood Marshall did more to improve the life of the damned, the
dispossessed, and the downtroddened than any other attorney in the 20th
century. He fought for the underdog in American society as an attorney
and as a justice of the U. S. Supreme Court. As chief counsel for the
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
for over 25 years, he fought
Jim Crow segregation in the snake pits and hell holes of the solid

(Left to Right, Jackie Robinson, with Thurgood Marshal, Special Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Inc. Fund, and Roy Wilkins, Executive Director of the NAACP)

In July 1944, LT Jackie Robinson was riding on a bus on the Army base at Camp Hood, Texas with a light complexioned Black woman, the wife of a fellow Black officer, he was asked to move to the back of the bus. Jackie Robinson refused and was arrested by U. S. Army military police. Later LT Robinson faced court-martial charges for refusing to move to the back of bus. He felt threatened.
Jackie Robinson wrote to the NAACP for "advice and counsel". Assistant Special Counsel Edward Dudley wrote back, "Please be advised that we will be unable to furnish you with an attorney in the event that you are court-martialed. However, if following the court-martial you feel that you have received an unfair sentence, kindly communicate with us at your earliest convenience, enclosing a copy of the court record, and we will be happy to review same in order to determine whether we can make representations onyour behalf before the Judge Advocate General's Board of Review in Washington, D.C..(Jackie Robinson, An Intimate Portrait, by Rachel Robinson and Lee Daniels,p. 31, published 2009, by Abrams Books, NY, NY.)

Thurgood Marshal won 29 of 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court; and,
he should have won all of them. In a perfect and just world, he would
have. His record of successful cases before the high court stands
today unparalleled in American judicial history.
President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1961. A group of Democratic Party Senators led by Mississippi's James Eastland held up his confirmation, so he served for the first several months under a recess appointment. Marshall remained on that court until 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him Solicitor General.

President Lyndon
baines Johnson appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1967
where he
served for 34 years.

When he traveled in the South, Thurgood Marshall never confronted "Jim
Crow" headon; that is, he never sat in railway stations or lunch
counters reserved "for whites only". However, in forays down South he
could not always avoid person danger. In 1946 in Columbia, Tennessee,
along with other defense counsels, he drove 200 miles round-trip daily
from Nashville,TN to the trial in Colunbia,TN. There was no safe place
for a Black lawyer to stay in Columbia, TN. At one point police
officers picked him up and took him alone in their car, and charged
him with drunk driving. Carl Rowan wrote a detailed newspaper article
about how the police tried to lead Attorney Thurgood Marshall to the
banks of a nearby river where a lynch mob had a noose hanging from a
tree, ready to lynch him. Brave armed Black citizens came to his
rescue. A courageous white magistrate smelled his breath and
proclaimed him sober and he was able to return to Nashvill. (Crusaders
in the Courts, by Jack Greenberg, 1994, Basic Books, Harper Collins,
p. 31,32)

In the Jim Crow segregated South, he was so revered in Black America
that people mostly spoke of him in whispered tones. He is easily the
most important American of this century. He rose from an humble birth
to a position higher than any Black American before him. He built his
reputation slowly in jerkwater southern towns where he was outnumbered
but never outmatched and never outgunned in the legal arena. In
virtually every case he was fighting for the right against a twisted
white justice system administered by southern judges and sheriffs who
had few second thoughts about beating in black heads.

Thurgood Marshall was the only Black leader in America during the
Civil Rights era who could say that he defeated segregation where it
really counted; that was, in the courts. He legal strategy was based
on the U. S. Constitution. He forced civil and constitutional rights
to be extended equally to the poorest and blackest American citizens
as well as poor whites. The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King would
never have won his first victory, the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott,
if Thurgood Marshall and his legal team had not first won a Supreme
Court ruling outlawing segregation on the city buses. Battles were
fought in the streets, but the victories were won in the courts

Also, it was Thurgood Marshall who argued the case of Brown v. Bd of
before the Supreme Court. This case ended segregation in
public schools.

Thomas G. Krattenmaker, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown
University Law Center, said it best. He said, "when I think of great
American lawyers, I think of Thurgood Marshall,, Abe Lincoln and
Daniel Webster. In the 20th Century only Earl Warren approaches
Thurgood Marshall. Marshall is certainly the most important American
lawyer of the 20th Century."

Drew Days, a former law professor at Yale University Law School, said
that "Thurgood Marshall was the living embodiment of how far we as
Americans have come on the major concern in our history-race- and how
far we still have to go. He was the conscience of this nation. In the
law, he remains our supreme conscience."
(Thurgood Marshall, Justice For All, by R. Goldman and D. Gallen, 1992
bt Caroll & Graf Publishers, Inc, Ny,Ny, 141,142.)

The Black middleclass developed as a result of the efforts of Thurgood Marshall. Those who drunk from the cup of plenty and savoured the elixir of success owe it to the drive, dedication and determination of Thurgood Marshall.



Blogger ichbinalj said...

Justice Clarence Thomas, alone among his colleagues, on 23 June 2009 said he would have resolved the case and held that the provision, known as Section 5 of The Voting Rights Act, is unconstitutional. "The violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this court to uphold it no longer remains," Thomas said.
I knew Thurgood Marshall. You sir are no Thurgood Marshall.

2:39 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

The Voting Rights Act, the government's chief weapon against racial discrimination at polling places since the 1960s, survived a Supreme Court challenge Monday 23 June in a ruling that nevertheless warned of serious constitutional questions posed by part of the law.

Major civil rights groups and other defenders of the landmark law breathed a sigh of relief when the court ruled narrowly in favor of a small Texas governing authority while sidestepping the larger constitutional issue.

After argument in late April, it appeared the court's conservatives could have a majority to strike down part of the law as unnecessary in an era marked by the election of the first African-American president, Barack Obama.

2:43 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

For what it's worth, I sometimes wonder what would have happened to Thomas without the Anita Hill scandal. He surely would have been approved by the Senate by a wider margin, but more importantly, would there have been an effort to enlist him in electoral politics? It seems far fetched now, given what a recluse Thomas has become.

3:45 PM  

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