“Justice Marshall would never lose his focus on
protecting the rights of all America’s citizens.”
Marshall (center), flanked by lawyers George E.C. Hayes (left) and James Nabrit, Jr., after arguing that public school segre- gation is unconstitutional, May 17, 1954.
When Al Gore and I won the general election in 1992,
Al was determined to have Justice Marshall swear
him into office. Though Marshall agreed, his health
was rapidly declining and he was ultimately forced
to decline—he passed away only three days after
our inauguration. In keeping with Justice Marshall’s
exceptional legacy, I was honored to have each of his
sons work in my administration. Thurgood Jr., who
had worked alongside Al for years, became my aide
and served on my delegations to South Africa (for the
inauguration of President Nelson Mandela in 1994)
and Bosnia (as a member of the Presidential Election
Observer Delegation in 1998). And in 1999, I appointed
Justice Marshall’s youngest son, John, as the first
African-American director of the U.S. Marshals.
Forty years after 1957, I was privileged as President
to welcome the Little Rock Nine back to Central High
School and be able to remark at the ceremony that,
“When the constitutional rights of our citizens are
threatened, the national government must guarantee them.” It’s a tribute to the life and work of Thurgood Marshall—also the grandson of a grocery store
owner—that on that day in 1997 I could speak those
words with confidence, because Marshall and his allies vowed to extend the constitutional promise of
equal protection and the American dream of equal
opportunity to all our citizens.
William Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd
President of the United States.
Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012