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44 Stan. L. Rev. 1215 (1991-1992)
A Tribute to Justice Thurgood Marshall

handle is hein.journals/stflr44 and id is 1231 raw text is: A Tribute to Justice Thurgood Marshall
Byron R. White*
I appreciate the opportunity to contribute a few words in tribute to
Thurgood Marshall, whose life as a lawyer before becoming a judge loomed
so large in a vastly important struggle that has been waged in this country, a
struggle that is far from over, and, until Congress weighed in, a struggle that
was played out almost entirely in the courts. Thurgood Marshall spent years
and years on the firing line, in lower and appellate courts, arguing important
cases in the Supreme Court both before and after Brown v. Board of Educa-
tion.1 His life as a private lawyer belies the suggestion that individual attor-
neys working in the private sector cannot make a profound difference in the
direction of the law. All of us should be very grateful to Thurgood for what
he accomplished in those years. There is no doubt that had he never become
a judge, he would still be remembered as one of the giants of the law. He
would still have had statutes sculpted in his honor, libraries named after
him, and images of him placed in stained-glass windows of cathedrals. In
our letter to him upon his retirement we noted among other things:
Everyone who sits on the Supreme Court will be remembered in the his-
tory of American constitutional law, but you are unique in having made
major contributions to that law before becoming a member of the Court.
Your role in the battle for equal treatment of the races would entitle you to a
prominent place in that history had you never ascended the bench at all.
You leave behind you landmarks from your career as a lawyer, as well as
from your career as a judge.
Thurgood's years on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit were
productive, and it was no great surprise when he became Solicitor General
and often took what to him was a familiar stance at the podium in our
Court. At every oral argument, we pass around among ourselves the admis-
sion papers of each lawyer as he or she argues. On these papers are the name
and date of every oral argument in which the individual lawyer has previ-
ously participated. When Thurgood appeared as Solicitor General, and he
did so almost twenty times, one could not help being reminded of what a
great role this man had played in the history of this country. And, by the
way, he was an excellent Solicitor General.
Thus it was that we knew him well when he came to our bench, though I
doubt we were prepared for the impact his presence would have on all of us.
While every new Justice makes the Court a somewhat different institution,
* Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court
1. 347 U.S. 483 (1954).


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