"I believe it is the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place," declared Lyndon Johnson, blinking in the bright sunlight of the White House Rose Garden. Thus, in a move that had been freely forecast but still represented a historic appointment, the President named Thurgood Marshall, 58, great-grandson of a Maryland slave, to be the first Negro Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
A 1933 graduate of the Howard University Law School, Marshall captained the long-drawn legal battle for equal rights during his 23 years as counsel for the N.A.A.C.P. and its Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court, winning all but three. His most famous victory was the court's 1954 ruling that segregated schools are in violation of the 14th Amendment. Named a federal circuit judge by John Kennedy, Marshall became the nation's first Negro Solicitor General two years ago.
Beatification. If Thurgood Marshall's qualifications for the Supreme Court were unimpeachable, his selection was also politically astutean act of official beatification that brought cheers from virtually every segment of the civil rights spectrum and should earn the Administration points among disenchanted Negro voters in next year's elections. "This has stirred pride in the breast of every black American," said Floyd McKissick, combative director of the Congress of Racial Equality.
Thanks in large part to his own efforts, Marshall will come to the Supreme Court at a time when the federal judiciary's great era of major civil rights decisions may be near its end. The fundamental lines of equality have already been drawn, and Marshall will likely be writing opinions on civil rights cases whose guidelines he saw established when he was arguing before the courts as counsel for the N.A.A.C.P.
No doubt Marshall will be more liberal, though perhaps only slightly so, than the man he is replacing: Justice Tom Clark, 67, who retired last week after 18 years on the Supreme Court bench to avoid any semblance of conflict of interest now that his son Ramsey is U.S. Attorney General. Justice Clark, an undogmatic, plain-talking jurist, generally supported the court's civil rights decisions, but tended to side with the conservatives in cases such as Escobedo and Miranda, where the rights of accused criminals were involved.
Chitlins Wit. Marshall, a gregarious storyteller with a dry wit and a healthy thirst for bourbon and water, has been married since 1955 to Hawaiian-born Cecelia Suyat (his first wife died of cancer a year before), and lives in an integrated neighborhood of Southwest Washington.He is equally comfortable drawling earthy tales in a self-mocking, chitlins-and-cornpone Negro dialect or arguing law in meticulously scholarly tones.