Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Thurgood Marshall became a consistent voice of liberalism after he was confirmed by the Senate as the first African American member of the Supreme Court. He was also a staunch opponent of the death penalty, considering it immoral in principle and discriminatory in application. "I'll never give up," he said of the issue in a 1983 interview. "On something like that, you can't give up and you can't compromise." Marshall retired from the court in 1991 and died two years later at age 84. An excerpt from The Post of Aug. 31, 1967:
By Robert C. Albright
Washington Post Staff Writer
President Johnson's appointment of Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall to be the first Negro member of the United States Supreme Court was approved yesterday by a landslide 69-to-11 vote of the Senate.
Confirmation came as an anticlimax after six hours of mostly listless debate, during which hard-core Southern opponents challenged not Marshall's race but his alleged "activist" temperament.
Liberal and moderate supporters, taking his confirmation for granted, occupied themselves mainly with eulogizing Marshall's background and high legal batting average.
As counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he had won 29 out of 32 cases before the Supreme Court, and as Solicitor General, 14 out of 19. Supporters termed it a probably unprecedented record.
"I am greatly honored," said Marshall, in a statement after the vote.
"Let me take this opportunity to affirm my deep faith in this Nation and its people, and to pledge that I shall be ever mindful of my obligation to the Constitution and to the goal of equal justice under the law."
The Supreme Court is in recess and Marshall is expected to be sworn when it begins its new term in October.
After the votes had been counted and the roll call announced, Senate Democratic Leader Mike Mansfield (Mont.) summed up the view of the majority.
"This is a shining hour for Mr. Marshall, for President Johnson, for the Senate and for the United States of America," Mansfield told the Senate. "We have come a long, long way toward equal access to the Constitution's promise. We shall go further along that way ... "
It was the third time in seven years that Marshall's name had been put to a vote of the Senate for high legal office. In 1962, President Kennedy named him a judge of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Second Judicial Circuit. The Senate confirmed him then, 54 to 16. When in 1965 President Johnson appointed him Solicitor General, the Senate approved by a simple voice vote.
He was nominated on June 23 for the Supreme Court vacancy left by the retirement of Associate Justice Tom C. Clark, but for weeks hearings dragged on in the Senate
Judiciary Committee. The committee finally recommended confirmation by a vote of 11 to 5. As in yesterday's Senate finalizing action, the "no" votes came from the South.