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Three days after his death, on January 27th, Thurgood Marshall came to the Supreme Court, up the marble steps, for the last time. Congress had ordered Abraham Lincoln's catafalque brought to the Court, and on it the casket of Thurgood Marshall lay in state. His beloved Chief, Earl Warren, had been so honored in the Great Hall of the Court, and no one else. Congress made the right decision about the bier, and it spoke with the voice of the people: no other American, of any age, so deserved to lie where Lincoln slept.

To him, all day on Wednesday, the people came – a score of thousands, we were told, in the blustery bright Washington winter. The President had said a week before that it was spring, but he was optimistic. I stood with perhaps two thousand of the people myself. They knew it was winter, but there was something that they had to do. With others who had been TM's law clerks, I kept vigil by the bier for a time. We stood by turns, in motionless respect as the people passed. TM's son John stood there all day, hour after hour with his trooper's straightness, full of gentle strength, his father's toughness in his face. So by turns we stood, on hard cold marble, and the people came to say goodbye. They too came up the steps and through the doors, above which the Court promises the world EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW. Later the Chief Justice said, and rightly, that no other individual had done more to make those words reality.


Law | Legal History | Supreme Court of the United States


This article originally appeared in 93 Colum. L. Rev. 1061 (1993). Reprinted by permission.