On this day, 30 August back in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced he was nominating the Honorable Thurgood Marshall to be the first black U.S. Supreme Court Justice. (Some will argue that he’s been the only one.) It wasn’t random–previously, LBJ had met with Marshall in 1965 to ask him to be his Solicitor General, which Johnson viewed as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.
According to presidential tapes recently released (and CNN), Johnson said, at the meeting, “I want the top lawyer in the United States representing me before the Supreme Court to be a negro. And be a damn good lawyer that’s done it before. So you have those peculiar qualifications.” He adds, “I want to do this job that [Abraham] Lincoln started, and I want to do it the right way.”
The road to the highest court was neither smooth nor easy, and some question whether LBJ’s motives were pure or political. The answer is it doesn’t matter. They were as pure and political as Lincoln’s were 100 years prior. The photo below, however shows one thing–whatever the motives, the relationship between the two men was real, and both will go down in the annals of U.S. history.
Photo taken by White House photographer Frank Wolfe.