By Sarafina Wright
The University of Maryland (UMD) announced its newly opened School of Public Policy building will bear the name of civil rights lawyer and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Throughout his career, Marshall played a key role in breaking down barriers for Black and African American students, including the desegregation of the University of Maryland, said the university.
“Thurgood Marshall was a trailblazer for justice and a pioneer as the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court,” said UMD President Darryll J. Pines.
“He fought for landmark civil rights cases, including access to our university by all of its citizens. Assigning his name to the School of Public Policy building honors his contributions to our university, state, and nation.”
Born in Baltimore, Marshall was rejected from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1930 because he was Black.
Soon after he graduated from Howard University Law School, where he was ranked first in his class, Marshall joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
He sued the University of Maryland on behalf of another Black student seeking admission to the law school and was part of the team that launched successful legal battles against the university on behalf of Parren Mitchell and Hiram Whittle, who were denied admission based on their race.
In 1950, Mitchell became the first Black student to take graduate classes on the College Park campus, and a year later, Whittle enrolled as the university’s first Black undergraduate student.
Marshall went on to argue the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which declared segregation unconstitutional. He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1967 and held the role of associate justice for 24 years.
“It is an honor to see the School of Public Policy building at the University of Maryland named after our father,” the Marshall family said in a statement.
“This recognition serves as a testament to his legacy as an unapologetic trailblazer for justice and equality. The inspiring work the School does every day to create the next generation of students embodies what was at his core — ensuring a more just and equitable world for all.”
The university said Thurgood Marshall Hall supports the school’s mission to advance the public good by drawing together students, faculty, and other experts to foster world-changing policy discourse and action.
The 77,000-square-foot building opened in the fall of 2022 and offers state-of-the-art teaching and collaborative spaces for students, faculty, and staff.
“There is no better name to bestow on this building than Thurgood Marshall’s,” said Robert C. Orr, dean of the School of Public Policy.
“Justice Marshall’s legacy in dismantling segregation, strengthening voting rights, and promoting equal protection for every American is an inspiration to all of us. His work through the NAACP, the U.S. justice system and the Supreme Court serve as an important reminder of the role we play as policymakers in advancing the public good, both here at home and across the globe.”