William Coleman has spent a lifetime opening doors and breaking down barriers. He has been an eyewitness to history; moreover, he has made history. This is his inspiring story, in his own words.
Americans of color faced daunting barriers in the 1940s. Despite graduating first in his class at Harvard Law and clerking for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, Coleman was shut out of major East Coast law firms. But as the Philadelphia native writes, "The times, they were a'changing." He not only benefited from that change—he helped propel it, by way of dogged determination, undeniable intellect, and stellar accomplishment.
Coleman's legal work with Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund helped jumpstart the civil rights movement in the 1950s. He was the first American of color to clerk for the Supreme Court, and later served as senior counsel to the Warren Commission, investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 1975 he was appointed secretary of transportation by President Gerald Ford—the first American of color to serve in a Republican cabinet—and in 1995 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton.
At his core, Bill Coleman is a lawyer. He strives to be a "counsel for the situation"—an advocate able to take on major matters in a variety of legal disciplines while upholding the highest traditions of justice and the public interest. He is fiercely proud of the legal profession's role in a democratic society and free economy, and he is grateful for the opportunities that profession has afforded him in the court room, the board room, and the corridors of power. It is through this prism that he relates his own story—his life and the law.
The results speak for themselves, and in this immensely entertaining chronicle, the Counsel for the Situation speaks for himself.
"Thurgood Marshall: A Biography" discusses the life of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in a chronological fashion, and then discusses his legacy after death. Students at all grade levels--including undergraduate and graduate college students--as well as historians and general readers interested in African American history, civil rights, or the U.S. legal system will find this book insightful and useful.
Using the framework of the dramatic, contentious five-day Senate hearing to confirm Marshall as the first African-American Supreme Court justice, Haygood creates a provocative and moving look at Marshall’s life as well as the politicians, lawyers, activists, and others who shaped—or desperately tried to stop—the civil rights movement of the twentieth century: President Lyndon Johnson; Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., whose scandals almost cost Marshall the Supreme Court judgeship; Harry and Harriette Moore, the Florida NAACP workers killed by the KKK; Justice J. Waties Waring, a racist lawyer from South Carolina, who, after being appointed to the federal court, became such a champion of civil rights that he was forced to flee the South; John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy; Senator Strom Thurmond, the renowned racist from South Carolina, who had a secret black mistress and child; North Carolina senator Sam Ervin, who tried to use his Constitutional expertise to block Marshall’s appointment; Senator James Eastland of Mississippi, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who stated that segregation was “the law of nature, the law of God”; Arkansas senator John McClellan, who, as a boy, after Teddy Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House, wrote a prize-winning school essay proclaiming that Roosevelt had destroyed the integrity of the presidency; and so many others.
This galvanizing book makes clear that it is impossible to overestimate Thurgood Marshall’s lasting influence on the racial politics of our nation.
From the Hardcover edition.