Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, interviewed by columnist Carl T. Rowan for a television special on the Constitution, criticized President Reagan while commenting on presidents and civil rights. Excerpts from the interview, to be televised Sunday at 8 p.m. on Channel 9, follow:

Rowan: For an unsentimental view of the Constitution, I went to a man who has used it more than any American who ever lived to try to widen the parameters of freedom in America. I speak of Thurgood Marshall, civil rights lawyer, NAACP attorney, appeals court judge, solicitor general of the United States, and now, a justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Marshall: The Constitution of the United States recognized slavery and did everything in its power to continue it. As I remember, the Constitutional Convention, they didn't even worry about the women. We have a great Constitution today; I've defended it all over the world. And I'll continue to defend it.

But it didn't start off that way. It has become a great Constitution by considering it as a living document, and the legislature passing amendments, and this court issuing judgments. That's what's made it a great Constitution.

Rowan: I asked Justice Marshall to rate some of the presidents who have influenced the search for justice during his lifetime.

Marshall: I don't think Roosevelt did much for the Negro. But I think Truman is going to come out on top. Eisenhower I don't think did anything, except to try to undermine the school decision -- which he did. Kennedy was held back by the attorney general, his brother. His brother said don't do anything for the Negroes because you won't get reelected -- wait until you're reelected and then do it. And then he got killed.

But Johnson, his plans were just unbelievable, the things he was going to do. But he was too far off for Negroes and civil rights, he wasn't thrown out because of Vietnam, they just used that as an excuse to get rid of him.

Rowan: Do you think he was the greatest civil rights president we ever had?

Marshall: In my book he was.

Rowan: Justice Marshall told me that when he was ill with pneumonia, Richard Nixon was so eager to appoint someone to the Supreme Court that he called an officer at the Bethesda Naval Hospital for a prognosis.

Marshall: I said, "Well, admiral, you have my permission to give it to him only on one condition: that you put at the bottom of it, quote, NOT YET."

Rowan: What about Ford?

Marshall: Nothing. Nothing. I don't think he had a chance.

Rowan: What about Jimmy Carter?

Marshall: Generally thinking, I think his heart was in the right place. But that's the best I can do with him.

Rowan: What about Ronald Reagan?

Marshall: The bottom.

Rowan: The bottom?

Marshall: Honestly. I think he's down with Hoover and that group. Wilson. When we really didn't have a chance.

Rowan: Yet he's been one of the most popular presidents the country ever had in the polls.

Marshall: Is he more popular than the average movie star?

The president, at a White House dinner for Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson Wednesday night, was asked by reporters about Marshall's remarks. Reagan responded:

A young fellow like me is not going to get mad at an old fellow like him {Reagan is 76; Marshall is 79}.

I hope he will be informed that isn't my record, not only in the administration but also as governor of California. In fact, I was raised in a household in which the greatest sin was prejudice. I just wish he had known that.

From boyhood on, I have been on the side of civil rights and no discrimination, and I am just sorry that he is not aware of that.