Before becoming the first African-American justice in the United States’ Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall already made a name for himself as a powerful civil rights pioneer. During his days as a lawyer, he argued 32 cases for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1940s and 1950s. He won 29 of those cases, including the breakthrough decisions about the country’s segregation in the school systems and voting rights.
Even though his name is synonymous with the civil rights movement of the 50s, Marshall was also at the forefront of the battles regarding police brutality, women’s rights, and the death penalty. Over five decades have passed since his history-making appointment to the nation’s highest court, and Marshall is still remembered for just as much for his trailblazing as for his big personality.
Here are some important things to know about this civil rights hero and legal pioneer that changed America.