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Black History Month: Honor Thurgood Marshall

February 27, 2013
Lehigh Acres Citizen

To the editor:

Thurgood Marshall, Mr. Civil Rights and Mr. Education - he worked to secure justice for all. Marshall devoted his life to ending racial injustice. Equal education was only one of his means to secure elevation of the hopeless. He pursued equal justice anywhere he was asked to serve. After graduating from law school at Howard University, he worked as an attorney for the NAACP.

He had remarkable success in education, culminating in the historical Supreme Court decision that ended legal segregation in America's public schools. Marshall said "Unless our children learn together we will never learn to live together." He was appointed to the U.S. Appeals Court in 1960 by President Kennedy. Almost a year after Kennedy nominated him to the Appeals Court; he was confirmed by three fourths of the Senate.

When asked about southerners who worked against him, he said "They really don't hate me as a person; I'm just a symbol to them, a symbol of something that is destroying their view of the constitution." "Lord help them! Someday they will see the light."

Marshall later served as Selector General for President Johnson. He won 29 of the 34 cases he argued for the government. In 1965 he was recommended for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Johnson. He was sworn in August 24, 1965. He was the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court.

Marshall was salty, aggressive, and a large rumpled bear of a man. He stood out and faced threats, beatings, and lynching. He argued against violence, urged no retaliation. He insisted that the ballot was the most effective way to solve problems.

His friends called him "Turkey" because of his clean dress and sharp strut with his head held high. Though well-educated and proud, he was able to relate and speak the appropriate language to the common man as to warm the situation. He made explanations simple when possible. He often used the Dr. Kenneth Clark doll experiment to express the effect of segregation. When asked if he got frustrated, he replied "I guess the answer is I should have been, but you could not be, because all you can do is push back with what you have. If you give up you are done."

He served the country well into his 80s. In his later years when his health was fading, he jokingly told his clerk, "If I die, prop me up and keep on voting." He was forced to retire because of ill health.

Lewis Robinson

Fort Myers



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