Thurgood Marshall’s legacy to America cannot be overstated. If for nothing else, his place in history is secured by his victory in the landmark 1954 BROWN v. BOARD of EDUCATION case, in which the Supreme Court overturned the doctrine of “separate but equal.” BROWN may have concerned school desegregation, but it’s effects have reached the lives of every American.
BROWN was just one of the twenty-nine (out of thirty-two) cases Marshall successfully argued before the Court as counsel to the NAACP, where he served for more than twenty-five years. As United States Solicitor General, a position he assumed in 1965, his record was almost as good: in his three years as the government’s advocate before the high Court, he successfully argued fourteen out of nineteen cases.
Marshall also set records as a jurist, becoming in 1962 only the second black person to serve on any federal appellate court when President Kennedy nominated him to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. And in 1967, when the Senate confirmed his nomination by President Johnson to the Supreme Court, he became the first African-American ever to hold that position.
Michael Davis, whose father was a friend of Marshall, and Hunter Clark, who served as chief page for the Supreme Court during Marshall’s tenure, have both, like the rest of us, been touched by Marshall’s greatness. Unfortunately, their rather special relationships with their subject do not always result in special insights. They do provide a wealth of information—some of it, such as that regarding Marshall’s relationship with Dr. MartinLuther King, Jr., interesting and fresh. But for readers who want to know more about this subject, or any other addressed in the book, there are no source notes. In time, Marshall will doubt less receive more thorough biographical treatment.