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Stamp Lionizes Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice, Civil Rights Lawyer

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2003 – The U.S. Postal Service is selling a stamp that lionizes an African American who is credited with ending legal segregation in the United States and who fought for minority equality in the armed forces.

The new 37-cent commemorative honors Thurgood Marshall and is the 26th issued in the Postal Service's Black Heritage series. The series began in 1978 and salutes outstanding African American activists, theorists, writers, educators and leaders.

First-day issue was in early January during a ceremony at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Building in northwest Washington. The stamp features a rendition of a black-and-white photograph of Marshall taken by Abdon Daoud Ackad Sr. in late 1967, shortly after Marshall became a Supreme Court justice.

One of the primary civil rights leaders of the 1950s and 60s, Marshall was born in Baltimore on July 2, 1908, and died in Bethesda, Md., on Jan. 24, 1993, at age 84.

Marshall became one of the nation's best-known civil rights lawyers while serving the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as chief counsel and then as the first director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc. He assumed the latter post in 1940 and held it for 21 years.

In 1951, during the Korean War, he visited South Korea and Japan to investigate charges of racism in the U.S. military. He reported to the president that the general practice was one of "rigid segregation." Marshall also investigated 39 racially motivated courts- martial during the war.

Calling his impact on American race relations greater than that of anyone else in the nation, some historians credit Marshall with ending legal segregation in the United States. They also say his victories as an NAACP lawyer broke the color line in housing, transportation, voting and schools by overturning a longstanding "separate but equal" doctrine.

The Supreme Court upheld the "separate-but-equal" doctrine in 1896 by deciding that separate facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were equal. The original case involved public transportation, but the doctrine quickly extended to cover many other areas, such as restaurants, theaters, restrooms and public schools.

Marshall argued against racial segregation in public schools in the 1954 Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan. He won a landmark victory when the court decided "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." The decision in time would spread and alter the economic, political and social structures of the nation.

Marshall was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court in 1939 and won 29 of the 32 cases he pleaded before it. In 1967, President Johnson appointed him as the first African American Supreme Court justice, a position he held until he retired in 1991.

The Postal Service has printed 150 million self-adhesive Thurgood Marshall stamps. It can be seen on the Postal Service Web site via www.usps.com/buy/.

The story about the African American heritage series of stamps is at http://www.usps.com/communications/community/bhstamps.htm.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe 37-cent Thurgood Marshall commemorative stamp issued in January 2003 features a portrait of the famed civil rights lawyer and Supreme Court justice taken from a 1967 photograph by Abdon Daoud Ackad Sr.  
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