Two statements about the life and legacy of Justice Thurgood Marshall. One by the Bishop of Washington and another by his son.
Statement on Justice Thurgood Marshall from the Rt Rev. John Bryson Chane
Not often is a saint of the Episcopal Church attacked in the chambers of the United States Senate, but incredibly, it has happened this week. As we prepare to celebrate our cherished American values of equality and justice on Independence Day, we must also rise to defend Justice Thurgood Marshall, an Episcopalian who embodied those ideals.
Marshall is an Episcopal saint. He was the first African American to become a justice of the United States Supreme Court and was the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case that struck down the institutional racism of segregated public schools. He was also a man of deep religious principles. Last summer, the Episcopal Church voted to include him in our book of saints, called Holy Women, Holy Men. May 17, the day of the Brown vs. Board decision, is his feast.
During his years in Washington, Justice Marshall and his family belonged to St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, where his widow, Sissy, is still an active member. On behalf of all Episcopalians in the Diocese of Washington, I extend to her my sympathy for the hurtful remarks made this week about her late husband. Let me assure Mrs. Marshall and all Episcopalians that our church is resolute in our gratitude for and admiration of Justice Marshall’s legacy, and we pray that we may all receive his exceptional grace and courage to speak the truth.
The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane
Bishop of Washington
Putting my father, Thurgood Marshall, on trial by Thurgood Marshall Jr.
When my father was confirmed 69 to 11, more than four decades ago, that historic act came after he worked for years in private practice drafting wills, trying murder cases and engaging in all legal issues in between; after working in the courts to bring long-overdue voting rights to the disenfranchised and to desegregate schools.
If there is to be a new round of battles on those issues, then I suspect that the victory margin would be far greater since legions of Americans of every stripe regard the resolutions of those issues as achievements that make our union more perfect. If there is to be a new round of battles over my father’s jurisprudence, his vision of the role of the courts or his belief in the 14th Amendment, then I like those odds, too. As Kagan, who clerked for my father in the 1987 Supreme Court term, noted this week, my father revered the high court because “his whole life was about seeing the courts take seriously claims that were not taken seriously anyplace else.”
My father appreciated the talent and dedication of his law clerks. While it is true he often referred to them as knuckleheads, it did not matter whether they agreed on all issues. He was grateful for their service and took pleasure in following their accomplishments over the years.
Two former clerks, Ralph K. Winter and Douglas Ginsburg, were nominated to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan. Those nominations did not prompt the kind of harsh innuendo to which we have been subjected this week.
A debate this week about judicial activism seems to have revealed only one thing: One person’s activism is another’s adherence to constitutional principle. And to my ear, a progressive jurist sounds far more desirable than a regressive one. But the Kagan hearing is not the proper forum to rehash my father’s work.
Read it all.