This Day in the Law
October 2

Thurgood Marshall Sworn In As First African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice (1967)

On October 2, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first African-America U.S. Supreme Court Justice. In particular, President Lyndon Johnson nominated Marshall and Chief Justice Earl Warren swore in Marshall to fill in the vacancy left by Justice Tom Clark.

Thurgood Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1908. Marshall applied and was rejected from law school at the University of Maryland because of his race. So, Marshall went to the all-black Howard School of Law in Washington, D.C. After graduation from law school, Marshall eventually joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as a lawyer. Marshall quickly rose in rank at the NAACP and became the legal director.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Marshall worked tirelessly through the NAACP to end racial segregation and promote civil rights through the legal system. Marshall was one of the best legal advocates in his time and nearly won all of his cases, including the landmark victory in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

In Brown, Marshall argued, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed, that segregation in public schools violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The decision of Brown overturned decades of law and acted as the catalysis for the civil rights movement to ultimately end legal segregation.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and Marshall was confirmed by the Senate the following year. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall to the position of U.S. Solicitor General. Then, in June 1967, President Johnson nominated Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court. Many Senators fiercely opposed Marshall’s appointment, but the Senate eventually confirmed his nomination. On this day, October 2, 1967, Marshall was officially sworn into the nation's highest court as the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

Marshall served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 24 years and promoted civil rights and the right to privacy. In 1991, Marshall retired from the U.S. Supreme Court and he died in 1993 due to poor health.