Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary
Thirteen years before becoming the first African-American justice on the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall's place in American history was secured, with his victory over school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. Williams (Eyes on the Prize) offers readers a thorough, straightforward life of "the unlikely leading actor in creating social change in the United States in the twentieth century." Although he was denied access to the files of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where Marshall devoted more than 40 years of his law career, and worked without the cooperation of Marshall's family, Williams has managed to fill in the blanks with over 150 interviews, including lengthy sessions with Marshall himself in 1989. Marshall is portrayed as an outspoken critic of black militancy and nonviolent demonstrations. Williams mentions, but does not dwell on, Marshall's history of heavy drinking, womanizing and sexual harassment. But his private contacts with J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, even while that organization was working to discredit Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, receives critical attention. This relationship ""could have cost him his credibility among civil rights activists had it become known," writes Williams. Likewise, it would appear that his extra-legal activities and charges of incompetence and Communist connections would, if publicized, have kept him from the Supreme Court, as he himself admitted.