John F. Kennedy’s nomination of Thurgood Marshall to the United States Court of Appeals
Thurgood Marshall (1908 – 1993) is an iconic figure in American legal history, primarily recognized for his work in civil rights and his eventual service on the U.S. Supreme Court. Before his appointment to the highest court, his legal journey involved several significant steps, one of which was his appointment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy nominated Thurgood Marshall to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This nomination was noteworthy for several reasons:
Breaking Racial Barriers
Marshall’s nomination and later appointment was groundbreaking because he was the first African American to hold this position. This was a notable achievement during an era when racial segregation and discrimination were rampant in many parts of the country.
The Baltimore-born was famed for being a leading civil rights attorney, best known for successfully arguing the landmark case “Brown v. Board of Education” before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, which resulted in the court declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional.
Despite his stellar qualifications, Marshall faced a protracted confirmation process in the Senate due to opposition from southern senators. It took nearly a year before he was confirmed in September 1962. The Senate confirmed him by a 56–14 vote.
During his tenure on the Second Circuit (from 1961 to 1965), Marshall penned over 95 decisions, and none of these were overturned by the Supreme Court.
Stepping Stone to the Supreme Court
Serving on the Court of Appeals enhanced Marshall’s visibility and reputation, which eventually paved the way for his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated him, and Marshall became the first African American justice to serve on the Supreme Court.
READ MORE: Women Justices of the US Supreme Court
Thurgood Marshall’s appointment to the Second Circuit was not just a personal achievement but a symbol of the incremental progress being made in the realm of civil rights and racial integration in the judiciary during the 1960s.
His tenure on the court solidified his reputation as a fair-minded, brilliant jurist, setting the stage for his historic appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.