President Johnson stands with Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall in Washington on June 13, 1967, following Johnson’s nomination of Marshall to serve as a justice of the Supreme Court, where Marshall had argued 32 cases, winning 29 and strengthening the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
The 14th Amendment prohibits depriving any person the “equal protection of the laws.” But in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Supreme Court had ruled that separating the races did not deprive blacks of equal protection. Segregationist practices were for years thereafter condoned as being “separate but equal.”
As a lawyer, Marshall chipped away at Plessy v. Ferguson and the legal cover it had given Southern states. In 1954, he won the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned Plessy and set the stage for the work of King and other civil rights activists.
A historic United Press International report describes Marshall as “an outstanding tactician with exceptional attention to detail, a tenacious ability to focus on a goal – and a deep voice that often was termed the loudest in the room.” (© AP Images)