On October 2, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice. Long before President Lyndon Johnson appointed him the first African-American Supreme Court justice, Marshall had established himself as the nation's leading legal civil rights advocate.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908, Marshall graduated with honors from Lincoln University and received his law degree from Howard University in 1933, ranking first in his class. He soon joined the legal staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and, for the twenty years between 1940 and 1961, headed the organization's Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
In 1954, Marshall achieved national recognition for his successful argument of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case. The Supreme Court's decision in this landmark case overturned Plessy v. Ferguson (1889) by ruling that public school segregation constituted an unconstitutional violation of rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. The Court's unanimous decision in this case surprised many, including Marshall, and lent enhanced legitimacy to this major development in constitutional law. The Brown decision, along with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, brought the demise of a web of state and local laws which had bound blacks to second-class citizenship.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and four years later President Johnson named him solicitor general of the United States before appointing him to the Supreme Court. Marshall spent nearly twenty-five years on the Court continuing to play a leading role in the legal fight to end racial discrimination in America by working to solidify the Brown decision and other civil rights victories through a series of judicial remedies.