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John Marshall headshot

John Marshall (1755-1835) was an American politician. He was the fourth chief justice of the United States Supreme Court (1801–1835). His court opinions helped lay the basis for United States constitutional law. Many believe he made the Supreme Court of the United States a co-equal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches. Previously, Marshall had been a leader of the Federalist Party in Virginia and served in the United States House of Representatives from 1799 to 1800. He was Secretary of State under President John Adams from 1800 to 1801. At the age of 45, he became the last of the chief justices to be born in colonial America.

Thurgood Marshall posing outside the Supreme Court

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was the grandson of a slave, and in 1930, he applied to law school at the University of Maryland. He was denied admission because of his race. This blatant racism haunted him and set the course for his future accomplishments. Marshall applied and was accepted into Howard University Law School. He developed a passion to overturn the 1898 Supreme Court ruling Plessy v. Ferguson that ensconced in law the "separate but equal" doctrine that would undergird legal racial segregation for decades.

Key Contributions

John Marshall dominated the Supreme Court for over three decades (34 years) and played a significant role in the development of the American legal system. Marshall reinforced the principle that federal courts are obligated to exercise judicial review, by disregarding purported laws if they violate the Constitution. In so doing, Marshall cemented the position of the American judiciary as an independent and influential branch of government. Furthermore, Marshall's court made several important decisions relating to federalism, affecting the balance of power between the federal government and the states during the early years of the republic. Specifically, Marshall’s court confirmed the supremacy of federal law over state law, and supported an expansive reading of the enumerated powers. He built up the third branch of the federal government, and augmented federal power in the name of the Constitution, and the rule of law. John Marshall, together with Daniel Webster (who argued some of the cases), ranked among the leading Federalists of the day.

As a practicing attorney, Thurgood Marshall’s impressive record of victories of Supreme Court challenges to state-sponsored discrimination, including the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, attracted the attention of President John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy appointed Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In this capacity, Marshall wrote over 150 decisions, including opinions supporting the rights of immigrants, limiting government intrusion in cases involving illegal search and seizure, enforcing the protecting against double jeopardy, and protecting the right to privacy. During Marshall’s tenure on the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, not one of his 98 majority decisions was ever reversed by the United States Supreme Court. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Judge Thurgood Marshall to the office of U.S. Solicitor General. He was subsequently nominated and confirmed as a Justice on the United States Supreme Court in 1967. Thurgood Marshall thus became the nation’s first African American United States Supreme Court Justice.

These individuals exemplify values shared by the community, including a strong work ethic, the pursuit of excellence, and an emphasis on education.

Relevant Historical Context

The school was originally named for John Marshall in 1953. It is unclear when Thurgood Marshall was added as a namesake. In 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower became President of the United States. President Eisenhower helped desegregate the Armed Forces and signed some of the first modern civil rights laws.


References

Great Black Speakers. (2017). John W. Marshall. Retrieved from https://www.greatblackspeakers.com/author/johnmarshall/

History.com. (n.d.). Thurgood Marshall Biography. Retrieved from http://thurgoodmarshall.com/

The People History -- Steve Pearson. (n.d.). What Happened in 1953 Important News and Events, Key Technology & Popular Culture. Retrieved from http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1953.html