Thurgood Marshall: An Examination of Legal and Judicial Leadership

Thurgood Marshall, civil rights activists, racial discrimination attorney, and Supreme Court Associate Justice, continually achieved the impossible in his lifetime. Always the accomplished student, Marshall frequently debated with his family members over the dinner table. It was then that the idea to become an attorney popped in his head. The entire country is fortunate that it did.

After successfully completing college, Thurgood applied to the University of Maryland for law school. He was denied entry, however, because he was African American. Instead he took his talents to Howard University and studied with Dean Charles Hamilton Houston. He instilled in Marshall the tools he would need to best utilize his leadership abilities and progress the African American people and the nation forward towards racial equality.

Upon completing law school, he worked as legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or the NAACP. During his time as an attorney, he worked on cases involving voting rights, criminal justice, and other areas of American life with legalized discrimination. Arguably his most important, or at least his most famous case, was in 1954, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. His natural leadership traits coupled with the skills he acquired during law school and his legal career provided him with the necessary persuasive communication and problem-solving skills to present a compelling legal argument to the Supreme Court of the United States. Ultimately, the court was swayed and social justice prevailed. This seminal case struck down racial segregation by law in all public schools in America. Obviously, it would take more time for true integration to take place, and racial integration is a work-in-progress; however, he laid the foundation for racial equity in education. Furthermore, Marshall also established the framework that all other minority groups (women, the LGBTQ community, etc.) would use in their respective fights for civil liberties and civil rights.

Thurgood Marshall wasn’t done yet. He would later be named to the Supreme Court himself. His long history of legal success made him a natural choice, and he became the first African American sworn into the highest court in the nation. As a Justice, he continued to lead his fellow justices by example on social issues. His legacy as an attorney, as a Supreme Court Justice, and as a civil rights leader will never be forgotten. His impact on our nation is still felt to this day. His confidence, intelligence, legal ability, and strong moral compass have help to create a better United States of America.

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