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Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice

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Thurgood Marshall was the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century. He transformed the nation's legal landscape by challenging the racial segregation that had relegated millions to second-class citizenship. He won twenty-nine of thirty-three cases before the United States Supreme Court, was a federal appeals court judge, served as the US solicitor general, a Thurgood Marshall was the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century. He transformed the nation's legal landscape by challenging the racial segregation that had relegated millions to second-class citizenship. He won twenty-nine of thirty-three cases before the United States Supreme Court, was a federal appeals court judge, served as the US solicitor general, and, for twenty-four years, sat on the Supreme Court. Marshall is best known for achievements after he relocated to New York in 1936 to work for the NAACP. But Marshall's personality, attitudes, priorities, and work habits had crystallized during earlier years in Maryland. This work is the first close examination of the formative period in Marshall's life. As the authorn shows, Thurgood Marshall was a fascinating man of contrasts. He fought for racial justice without becoming a racist. Simultaneously idealistic and pragmatic, Marshall was a passionate advocate, yet he maintained friendly relationships with his opponents. Young Thurgood reveals how Marshall's distinctive traits were molded by events, people, and circumstances early in his life. Professor Gibson presents fresh information about Marshall's family, youth, and education. He describes Marshall's key mentors, the special impact of his high school and college competitive debating, his struggles to establish a law practice during the Great Depression, and his first civil rights cases. The author sheds new light on the NAACP and its first lawsuits in the campaign that led to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision. He also corrects some of the often-repeated stories about Marshall that are inaccurate. The only biography of Thurgood Marshall to be endorsed by Marshall’s immediate family, Young Thurgood is an exhaustively researched and engagingly written work that everyone interested in law, civil rights, American history, and biography will want to read.


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Thurgood Marshall was the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century. He transformed the nation's legal landscape by challenging the racial segregation that had relegated millions to second-class citizenship. He won twenty-nine of thirty-three cases before the United States Supreme Court, was a federal appeals court judge, served as the US solicitor general, a Thurgood Marshall was the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century. He transformed the nation's legal landscape by challenging the racial segregation that had relegated millions to second-class citizenship. He won twenty-nine of thirty-three cases before the United States Supreme Court, was a federal appeals court judge, served as the US solicitor general, and, for twenty-four years, sat on the Supreme Court. Marshall is best known for achievements after he relocated to New York in 1936 to work for the NAACP. But Marshall's personality, attitudes, priorities, and work habits had crystallized during earlier years in Maryland. This work is the first close examination of the formative period in Marshall's life. As the authorn shows, Thurgood Marshall was a fascinating man of contrasts. He fought for racial justice without becoming a racist. Simultaneously idealistic and pragmatic, Marshall was a passionate advocate, yet he maintained friendly relationships with his opponents. Young Thurgood reveals how Marshall's distinctive traits were molded by events, people, and circumstances early in his life. Professor Gibson presents fresh information about Marshall's family, youth, and education. He describes Marshall's key mentors, the special impact of his high school and college competitive debating, his struggles to establish a law practice during the Great Depression, and his first civil rights cases. The author sheds new light on the NAACP and its first lawsuits in the campaign that led to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision. He also corrects some of the often-repeated stories about Marshall that are inaccurate. The only biography of Thurgood Marshall to be endorsed by Marshall’s immediate family, Young Thurgood is an exhaustively researched and engagingly written work that everyone interested in law, civil rights, American history, and biography will want to read.

30 review for Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice

  1. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Wherein I learned I am much closer to Mark Twain than I thought. Bwa ha ha. Good, loving book about Justice Thurgood Marshall. Good book about Baltimore. I knew, vaguely, that Marshall hailed from Baltimore, but I did not really grok what that means. Baltimore had a thriving African American intellectual and political class when Marshall was growing up. And brutal lynchings of African Americans deemed to have crossed some line all around. Maryland was a tiny bit better than some of its close sis Wherein I learned I am much closer to Mark Twain than I thought. Bwa ha ha. Good, loving book about Justice Thurgood Marshall. Good book about Baltimore. I knew, vaguely, that Marshall hailed from Baltimore, but I did not really grok what that means. Baltimore had a thriving African American intellectual and political class when Marshall was growing up. And brutal lynchings of African Americans deemed to have crossed some line all around. Maryland was a tiny bit better than some of its close sisters. The state Republic Party actually worked hard to preserve black voting rights. Many white citizens had non-citizen grandfathers, making grandfather clauses (which gave much easier voting rights to those whose grandfathers had voted) much less popular. And it had black leaders, including lawyers, who fought hard against franchise restrictions. Marshall grew up where he could see both horrible violence against people who looked like him and lawyers who looked like him. Marshall's involvement with history went back further than I knew. In 1926, while in college, he was a member of the debate team that did the first interracial college debate. With Oxford! (94-95). In 1927, his team debated Penn State. (95). Justice Owen Roberts was a trustee of his college. And his graduation speaker, Dr. Joseph Holley, the president of Albany Normal College, took has his text, "'Thank god for slavery." (105). Shudder. On the "sometimes history doesn't fill me with nausea" side, when Marshall was a young lawyer, one of histmentors was Warner T. McGuinn, "the sixth black lawyer admitted to the bar in Maryland." McGuinn went to Yale law school, mostly working his way through. He happened to meet Mark Twain, who was so impressed with him that he paid McGuinn's third year tuition. "At is graduation, McGuinn received the Townsend Prize for Oration in a contest judged by the chief justice of the US Supreme Court, a US senator, and the president of the New York Central Railroad. McGuinn and Twain remained friends until Twain's death." (138). ** McGuinn was involved in successfully challenging laws that made “it a crime for blacks to move into white neighborhoods.” (142). The United States Supreme Court ultimately struck those statutes as unconstitutional. (143). Which was when real estate agents and the drafters of deeds started putting racially restricted covenants into their deeds; a thing that still shocks me every time I see. (143). I’d forgotten that Marshall argued Shelly v. Kraemer, where the United States Supreme Court found those deed restrictions unenforceable. Win for arcing towards justice. Marshall, of course, was deeply involved in cases that started to take apart segregated education. In 1935, he argued a case that led to Judge Eugene O’Dunne issuing a writ of mandate from the bench ordering the University of Maryland Law School to admit a black student, Donald Gaines Murray (246). The Maryland Appeals Court declined to stay enforcement and the Maryland Supreme Court affirmed. Good book. ** Which means, I can trace my connection to Mark Twain! One of my mentors was Leonard Schroeter. He worked with Thurgood Marshall on Brown v. Board. Thurgood Marshall was mentored by Warner T. McGuinn. Who was friends with Twain. Squee.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    University of Maryland law professor Larry S. Gibson highlights the formative years of the African-American civil rights attorney and Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993). Professor Gibson was the first African-American law professor at the University of Virginia in 1972. Most of the biographers of Marshall covered Marshall’s professional life. Gibson, by contrast, focused solely on the first thirty years of Thurgood life. Gibson traces Marshall’s family background and academic pa University of Maryland law professor Larry S. Gibson highlights the formative years of the African-American civil rights attorney and Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993). Professor Gibson was the first African-American law professor at the University of Virginia in 1972. Most of the biographers of Marshall covered Marshall’s professional life. Gibson, by contrast, focused solely on the first thirty years of Thurgood life. Gibson traces Marshall’s family background and academic path, and goes into detail of his early professional life. Marshall faced segregated schools, bars on admittance to professional schools, low pay for blacks and justice system that provided little justice for blacks. Marshall came from a family of high achievers and of unusual names. His uncle Fearless Williams was personal assistant to the president of the B&O Railroad. His grandfathers Isaiah Olive Branch Williams and Thorney Good Marshall were successful Baltimore grocers. His Mother’s father was born free in rural Maryland joined the Union Navy and served on Union vessels during the Civil War. His paternal grandfather had been a slave, a Union volunteer and a Buffalo soldier. Thorney changed his name to Thoroughgood when he joined the Union Army. Marshall named after his grandfather changed his name from Thoroughgood to Thurgood. Marshall’s mother was a teacher and was determined her two sons obtain a college degree and become professionals. William Audrey became a physician and Thurgood an attorney. Marshall graduated from Lincoln University cum laude in 1930. Lincoln was the “Black Princeton” founded in 1854 and was the first degree granting college for Blacks. Thurgood graduated cum laude from Howard University Law School in 1933. Howard University was a leading Black University in those days. Trained to debate by his father, Thurgood developed a considerable command of language and research skill on his high school debate team but this was further refined serving on his college varsity debating team. I noted that a number of the Supreme Court Justice were successful debaters on their University debating teams. Gibson wrote a well documented book. He used interviews, documents and personal papers rarely shared by the family. Thurgood Marshall Jr. wrote the opening of the book. Marshall was the attorney for the NAACP during the years of the Civil Rights battles. He was chief counsel for the plaintiff in the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case “Brown V Board of Education”, in which schools segregation was declared unconstitutional. He was the first African-American Supreme Court Justice appointed in 1967 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. I read this as an audio book downloaded from Audible. Vince Bailey narrated the book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Niccoya

    I learned a lot about Thurgood Marshall in this book and appreciate the research conducted by the author. I agree with other reviews about the style of writing resembling that of a history book. I would have liked a more intimate view into Thurgood's family relationships in his adult life. It was almost as if everything post law school in the book focused on Thurgood's relationship with Charles Hamilton Houston. Nonetheless, I don't regret purchasing and reading the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Skip

    I didn't know much about Thurgood Marshall outside what everyone learns in history class: civil rights hero, argued Brown v. Board of Education, later Supreme Court justice. At the local library, I came across a couple of ways to rectify my ignorance: the 2017 movie Marshall, and the book Young Thurgood by Larry Gibson. The book fills in much of the backstory that led to those great things, covering the first 35 or so years of his life. The movie is a dramatization of a rape case that took place I didn't know much about Thurgood Marshall outside what everyone learns in history class: civil rights hero, argued Brown v. Board of Education, later Supreme Court justice. At the local library, I came across a couple of ways to rectify my ignorance: the 2017 movie Marshall, and the book Young Thurgood by Larry Gibson. The book fills in much of the backstory that led to those great things, covering the first 35 or so years of his life. The movie is a dramatization of a rape case that took place in 1940, pretty much right after the time covered by the book. I read the book first, then watched the movie. There's a lot packed into Young Thurgood about Marshall's early life, but two major themes stood out for me. First, Thurgood Marshall had an incredible work ethic. He was constantly busy with activities, whether those took the form of work or education or community service. Second, Marshall had a true belief in the importance of civil rights activism and put that above his own welfare. This is most clearly demonstrated in the way that he repeatedly took civil rights cases over more lucrative law practice options, despite his own tenuous financial position. Beyond the details of Marshall's life, the other theme that struck me in reading Young Thurgood was just how pervasive racism was in the early 20th century. Everything from lesser pay to school restrictions to lynchings...reading example after example really drives home how bad things were only a century ago. We've still got plenty of work to do on this front, but it's also striking how much things have changed. And Thurgood Marshall had a large role in making those changes. Young Thurgood isn't a novel; there's a lot of fairly dry recounting of history to get through. There's not a lot of excitement in the documentation of individual incidents, but taken as a whole, the book does a fine job of painting a picture of Marshall and the early 20th century. The movie Marshall, on the other hand, struck me as very much the opposite - very entertaining, but light on the historical accuracy. It strikes me as extremely unlikely that Marshall would have been quite so high-handed with Sam Friedman as is shown in the film, for instance. Making Friedman carry his bags, really? Being cavalier about little things like changing radio stations or sending Friedman into the mud? It works for setting the Marshall-in-charge dynamic for the film, but I highly doubt the accuracy. But that's not surprising, in a film that's largely about showing Thurgood Marshall as a civil rights superhero. He deserves the acclaim, exaggerated or not. And I enjoyed catching references to many of the people that I'd just read about in the book. I'm never going to be a Thurgood Marshall expert, but I feel like I know a little more now about the man and his work. Time well spent.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kody George

    A quick moving biography in the early life of Thurgood Marshall.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    Biography covering detailed accounts of the formative years of Thurgood Marshall before his appointment as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. It covers his childhood, and family life, his education, mentors in his life, and his early years as a lawyer, and his time spent in the trenches of America's legal landscape honing his professional skills, and his advocacy for civil rights. "Isn't it nice that no one cares which twenty-three hours of the day I work?" - Thurgood M Biography covering detailed accounts of the formative years of Thurgood Marshall before his appointment as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. It covers his childhood, and family life, his education, mentors in his life, and his early years as a lawyer, and his time spent in the trenches of America's legal landscape honing his professional skills, and his advocacy for civil rights. "Isn't it nice that no one cares which twenty-three hours of the day I work?" - Thurgood Marshall

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ray Lucas

    This book really captures the evolution of Justice Marshall, giving a vivid picture of his growth and development in his early years. Being from Baltimore and a graduate from his high school, Frederick Douglass, Gibson's references to Baltimore throughout the book make me feel even more proud of Marshall's significant accomplishments. It also makes me feel at home.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    I wasn't very impressed with the style of writing, and some of the back-and-forth listing of events got old. The parts of the book that I valued the most were those that gave me a better view of the racial history of my home state (MD) during the 1930's.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katrinka

    I was hoping for a more intimate story about Thurgood Marshall's early life; however, the book tells a story sometimes fascinating and sometimes too thick with names and facts to always keep my interest.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Asa Yoel

    I thought that this was an excellent book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emely

    Amazing...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth Barber

    This was a good about the formative years of thurgood Marshall and the influences that shaped his career. I found it very interesting and worth the read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Black

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  17. 5 out of 5

    Preston Pylant

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nelly

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

  21. 4 out of 5

    Max Romanow

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lisa344

  23. 4 out of 5

    Martina Callum

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eben dennis

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kristie Muldrow-Gill

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Thomas

  28. 5 out of 5

    willie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  30. 4 out of 5

    Henry Trois

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