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44 Stan. L. Rev. 1217 (1991-1992)
Thurgood Marshall: The Influence of a Raconteur

handle is hein.journals/stflr44 and id is 1233 raw text is: Thurgood Marshall:
The Influence of a Raconteur
Sandra Day O'Connor*
I was fresh out of Stanford Law School, working as a civilian attorney in
the Quartermaster Market Center, the day Thurgood Marshall changed the
nation. He had been chipping away at the building blocks of a separatist
society long before 1954, of course, but it was through Brown v. Board of
EducationI that he compelled us, as a nation, to come to grips with some of
the contradictions within ourselves.
Like most of my counterparts who grew up in the Southwest in the 1930s
and 1940s, I had not been personally exposed to racial tensions before
Brown; Arizona did not have a large African American population then, and
unlike southern States, it never adopted a de jure system of segregation.
Although I had spent a year as an eighth grader in a predominately Latino
public school in New Mexico, I had no personal sense, as the plaintiff chil-
dren of Topeka School District did, of being a minority in a society that
cared primarily for the majority.
But as I listened that day to Justice Marshall talk eloquently to the me-
dia about the social stigmas and lost opportunities suffered by African
American children in state-imposed segregated school, my awareness of
race-based disparities deepened. I did not, could not, know it then, but the
man who would, as a lawyer and jurist, captivate the nation would also, as
colleague and friend, profoundly influence me.
Although all of us come to the Court with our own personal histories
and experiences, Justice Marshall brought a special perspective. His was the
eye of a lawyer who saw the deepest wounds in the social fabric and used law
to help heal them. His was the ear of a counselor who understood the vul-
nerabilities of the accused and established safeguards for their protection.
His was the mouth of a man who knew the anguish of the silenced and gave
them a voice.
At oral arguments and conference meetings, in opinions and dissents,
Justice Marshall imparted not only his legal acumen but also his life exper-
iences, constantly pushing and prodding us to respond not only to the per-
suasiveness of legal argument but also to the power of moral truth.
Although I was continually inspired by his historic achievements, I have
perhaps been most personally affected by Justice Marshall as raconteur. It
* Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court.
1. 347 U.S. 483 (1954).


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