‘I, Thurgood Marshall, Do Swear… To Do Equal Right’

AFRO Archived History

by: Ruth Jenkins Originally Published Oct. 14, 1967
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Fifty years ago Thurgood Marshall was sworn as a Supreme Court justice, making him the first African American to hold such a distinction. The AFRO was in the room as he took the oath of office, as the below story details.

96th justice takes seat on high court

Oct. 14, 1967

WASHINGTON—Mrs. Cyrus W. Marshall Sr. got a double thrill, Monday.

Her nephew, Thurgood Marshall, 59, set another in a series of racial precedents by taking a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. And shortly before the oath was administered to him President Johnson made a surprise entrance and quietly sat down immediately in front of Mrs. Marshall.

Mr. Justice Marshall is the 96th justice and the first colored justice to serve on the nine man Supreme Court since its beginning in Feb. 1790.

He was nominated to the court by President Johnson last June 13, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 30.

For two years previously, he served in another precedent-setting position as U.S. Solicitor General, also by appointment of President Johnson.

Following Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Marshall took the Constitutional oath on Sept. 1.

It was administered by Mr. Justice Black, in the absence of the Chief Justice. Normally the Constitutional oath—swearing to support and defend the Constitution—is taken in private with only the other justices present.

So Monday morning, five minutes after the Supreme Court assembled at 10 a.m. he took the judicial oath, administered by the clerk of the court, John F. Davis, who first read the Presidential Commission of appointment. Chief Justice Earl Warren presided.

Robed shortly before the oath was administered, Mr. Marshall said in a strong resonant voice:

“I, Thurgood Marshall, do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and the rich…

“And that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the United States.

“So help me God.”

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