The widow of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Cecilia “Cissy” Suyat Marshall, died Tuesday, aged 94.
Marshall’s spouse, a civil rights lawyer who fought Brown v. Board of Education, became the high court’s first black justice in 1967. He resigned from the high court in 1991 and died at age 84 in 1993.
Hawaii-born Cecilia Suyat She relocated to NYC and studied stenography at Columbia University at night. In 1948, a job agency placed her at the NAACP.
Also read: Justice Thurgood Marshall’s Wife Dies
In a 2016 interview, she claimed, “The clerk spotted my dark complexion, and she referred me to the national headquarters of the NAACP. She referred me to the NAACP for my first job for that reason. I appreciate her because without her, I wouldn’t have learned about racial issues.”
On Oct. 2, 1967, Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, right, watches his first day on the bench with his family. Marshall’s wife, Cecilia, 11-year-old Thurgood Jr., and 9-year-old John are from left.
Met at NAACP
“Having been born in the Hawaiian Islands, we never had those racial difficulties, and so working with the NAACP opened my eyes,” said Filipino-American Suyat. She met her husband at the NAACP.
She represented the Groveland Four, four young black males wrongly convicted of raping a white lady in Florida, among other instances. She assisted Marshall in taking notes and typing briefs for the Brown v. Board of Education lawsuits in 1952 and 1953.
She subsequently remembered the Brown celebration.
“I don’t know about you fools,” Marshall said amid the celebrations. “Our task begins.”
Marshall’s first wife, Vivien Burey, died of cancer in 1955. He married Suyat later that year.
After Marriage, Quit the NAACP
She stated the marriage nearly didn’t happen—not because of their 20-year age gap. She worried about being labelled “a foreigner” by many people.
“When Thurgood offered, I answered, ‘No way,'” she remarked in 2013. “I’m marrying you,” he said. “I’m not marrying the nation, and they’re not marrying me.”
Thurgood and John were their sons. In Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court struck down interracial marriage bans in 16 states immediately before Marshall arrived.
John Roberts said that Cissy Marshall was a “vibrant and devoted member of the Court family” who went to many court events.
He wrote. “She had an easy sense of humour that could be saucy—in a proper situation, of course.”
“Every clerk to Justice Marshall earned a kind of bonus: the steady affection and support of his wife Cissy,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan.
The Supreme Court said funeral preparations were pending. Thurgood Marshall was interred with other former justices at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.