THURGOOD MARSHALL by Michael D. Davis

THURGOOD MARSHALL

Warrior at the Bar, Rebel on the Bench
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An affectionate and engaging biography of the ``rumpled bear of a man'' who served as the liberal conscience of the Supreme Court, and as its first African-American justice, from 1967 until his retirement last year. While today many know Marshall from his Supreme Court years, his signal contributions to civil rights came as an NAACP lawyer. Clark, a former Time magazine writer, and Davis, a professional journalist (The Atlanta Constitution, etc.), describe how Marshall's career, like those of many great lawyers, was shaped by an influential law professor--in Marshall's case, Howard University's Charles Hamilton Houston, who conceived of civil litigation as a method of social engineering. In 1935, after graduating from Howard, Marshall assisted Houston in a suit that compelled the University of Maryland to admit African-American applicants. Marshall went on to investigate lynchings in his home state of Maryland, to win salary equalization for Baltimore's teachers, and to assist in organizing boycotts--but it was his stirring appellate advocacy before the Supreme Court that won him lasting fame. Marshall won 29 of the 32 cases he argued, including Smith v. Allwright, which won voting rights for disenfranchised African-Americans; Shelly v. Kraemer, which struck down racially restrictive covenants; and the landmark Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down legal segregation in education. After his appointment to the liberal Court of Earl Warren, Marshall formed part of the majority; as the Court became more conservative, he found himself increasingly in dissent. The authors supply much anecdotal detail about Marshall's colorful personality and robust humor (when President Nixon inquired about Marshall's health when the justice was hospitalized, Marshall responded, ``not yet''). Above all, Davis and Clark show that, though Marshall ended in isolation on the Court, his life and career resulted in lasting achievements in civil rights. A warm and fitting tribute that provides an excellent examination of the development of Marshall's jurisprudence. (Twenty-four pages of photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 1-55972-133-2
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Birch Lane Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1992