On this day in 1967, Thurgood Marshall was appointed as a United Supreme Court Justice, the first African-American to ascend to this position. Did you know that Thurgood Marshall’s light skin and hair impacted his reputation? Hair has always been an identity marker, something that may signal inclusion or exclusion; acceptance or rejection. Thank goodness for all of us, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was appointed. Our country would be a different land without his brilliant legal mind.
Here is an excerpt from Juan William’s book, “Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary” that underscores how hair and other elements of appearance impacted Justice Thurgood Marshall:
“RUMORS FLEW THAT NIGHT. Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark had resigned a few hours earlier. By that Monday evening, Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall and his wife, Cissy, heard that the president was set to name Clark’s replacement the very next morning. At the Marshalls’ small green town house on G Street in Southwest Washington, D.C., the phone was ringing. Friends, family, and even politicians were calling to see if Thurgood had heard anything about his chances for the job. But all the Marshalls could say was that they had heard rumors.
As Marshall dressed for Clark’s retirement party on that muggy Washington night of June 12, 1967, he looked at his reflection in the mirror. Years ago some of his militant critics had called him “half-white” for his straight hair, pointed nose, and light tan skin. Now, at fifty-eight, his face had grown heavy, with sagging jowls and dark bags under his eyes. His once black hair, even his mustache, was now mostly a steely gray. And he looked worried. He did have on a good dark blue suit, the uniform of a Washington power player. But the conservative suit looked old and out of place in an era of Afros and dashikis. And even the best suit might not be strong enough armor for the high-stakes political fight he was preparing for tonight. At this moment the six-foot-two-inch Marshall, who weighed well over two hundred pounds, felt powerless. He was fearful that he was about to lose his only chance to become a Supreme Court justice.”