LBJ with “Godfather of Black Politics,” Louis E. Martin
Louis Emanuel Martin was a close advisor to three Presidents; John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. As a trusted White House counsel, his impact on African American issues and voters earned him the nickname “the Godfather of Black Politics.”
While working with JFK on the 1960 run for President, Martin persuaded Kennedy to call Coretta Scott King after her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested. That phone call is largely seen as the tipping point in winning over the African American vote for JFK in the Presidential election.
During LBJ’s time in office, Martin’s influence was prominent in marquis policies such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and in the nomination of Thurgood Marshall as a Supreme Court Justice. At the time of this photo, Martin was also the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), a position he had held since 1961 under JFK.
Jimmy Carter called Martin to the White House again in 1978 to serve as a special assistant to the President.
Photo from the LBJ Library: President Lyndon B. Johnson with White House advisor Louis E. Martin at the Reception for Democratic National Committee Delegates. In the Red Room of the White House. 4/20/66.
On this day in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to sit on the Supreme Court.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, the future civil rights leader originally intended to study at nearby the University of Maryland School of Law, however, it remained segregated.
Instead, Marshall attended Howard University School of Law. Shortly after graduating, Marshall successfully challenged the segregated University of Maryland in Murray v. Pearson. Read More
Marshall remained on the Court until 1991.
Photo: President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with Thurgood Marshall shortly before announcing Marshall’s nomination to the Supreme Court, June 13, 1967.
Brown vs. Board of Education
On May 17, 1954 the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision overturning “separate but equal” as unconstitutional, stating that segregation in public schools was a violation of the 14th amendment.
Four years earlier, members of the Topeka, Kansas, Chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) challenged the “separate but equal” doctrine governing public education through a class action suit when they were denied the opportunity to enroll their children in the white-only schools.
When the Topeka case made its way to the United States Supreme Court it was combined with other NAACP cases from Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. The combined cases became known as Oliver L. Brown et. al. vs. The Board of Education of Topeka (KS).
You can see the original Complaint against the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Court Order, and correspondences between President Eisenhower about Brown vs. Board of Education from Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Papers as President here.
Pictured: Supreme Court Opinion of Brown vs. Board of Education, pages 1-3. 5/31/55.
-from the Eisenhower Library
Sandra Day O’Connor was born on this day — March 26, 1930
Ronald Reagan had the opportunity to fill three Supreme Court seats during his tenure as President. Among those confirmed was Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court.
On September 25, 1981, O’Connor was sworn in as Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warren Burger. This photo was taken with the Justices and President Reagan on the day she was sworn in.
Caption: Supreme Court Justices pose with President Reagan in the Supreme Court Conference Room. From left to right: Justice Harry Blackmun, JusticeThurgood Marshall, Justice William Brennan, Chief Justice Warren Burger, President Reagan, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Justice Byron White, Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Justice William Rehnquist and Justice John Paul Stevens. 9/25/81.
Happy 83rd Birthday Sandra Day O’Connor!
May 17th 1954: Brown v. Board of Education decision
On this day in 1954, the US Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The decision declared segregation on grounds of race in schools unconstitutional. The ruling overturned the 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson which allowed segregation under the doctrine ‘separate but equal’. The case had been bought by African-American parents, including Oliver L. Brown, against Topeka’s educational segregation. It was argued before the Court by the chief legal counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP): Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African-American Supreme Court justice in 1967. The Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, declared that segregation violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The landmark decision is considered the start of the Civil Rights Movement which led to racial integration and full legal rights for African-Americans.
“We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”
- Warren’s opinion for the Court
Mr. Civil Rights
Thurgood Marshall convinced the Supreme Court that school segregation was unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education.
As legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Marshall represented civil rights plaintiffs all over the south and argued more than 30 such cases before the Supreme Court. He won all but five and earned the nickname, Mr. Civil Rights.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy named him to the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Second District. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall U.S. Solicitor General, the third highest post in the Department of Justice.
Two years later, on June 13, 1967, LBJ nominated Marshall to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court where he served for 24 years.
Thurgood Marshall’s nomination by LBJ made him the first African American Supreme Court Justice, but it also followed a long and distinguished career as a civil rights lawyer who successfully fought inequality and discrimination.
Pictured here are Marshall and LBJ outside of the White House. 7/9/65
-from the LBJ Library
Brown v. Board of Education
On May 17, 1954, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren delivered a unanimous ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The Court stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” and that school segregation was unconstitutional, violating the equal protection guarantee of the 14th amendment.
This 1954 civil rights victory, argued by Thurgood Marshall, overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision establishing the "separate-but-equal" segregation principle. The Supreme Court’s conclusion can be seen above. View the full document here.
The reaction to the ruling was varied. For example, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Prince Edward County in particular, resisted the Supreme Court’s decision. The county closed its public schools (including the one shown above) from 1959 to 1964 to avoid desegregation.
Learn more from the Eisenhower Library
Supreme Court Order for Appearance of Thurgood Marshall, who argued the case for school desegregation. From the case file of Brown v. Board of Education. December 3, 1951.
Marshall would later become the first African American Supreme Court Justice.
More - Thurgood Marshall