Announcement Recognizes Role of Late Civil Rights Lawyer, Supreme Court Justice in Desegregating UMD and Nation’s Schools
The new School of Public Policy building will bear the name of civil rights lawyer and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, honoring his role in breaking down barriers for Black and African American students, including the University of Maryland’s desegregation, university leaders announced today.
“Thurgood Marshall was a trailblazer for justice and a pioneer as the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court,” said President Darryll J. Pines. “He fought for landmark civil rights cases including the 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 barred from applying to the University of Maryland School of Law in 1930 because he was Black. Soon after his graduation 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.”
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.
“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.”
The 77,000-square-foot building, which opened in the fall, united the school’s growing community under one roof for the first time in its 40-year history, and offers state-of-the-art teaching and collaborative spaces for students, faculty and staff.