Oliver Wendell Holmes once observed that the life of the law is not of logic but of experience. That being so, it is safe to say that Thurgood Marshall brought more authentic life into the musty halls of the Supreme Court than any of his fellow jurists.
Marshall's experience was both bitter and sweet -- bitter, because he endured personally the cruelties of segregation and abuse; sweet, because as a result of his own Herculean efforts, that legacy was overcome, at least in a formal sense.
Who can possibly fill the shoes of Justice Marshall, the liberal lion who is now retiring after 24 years on the high bench? Appointed by President Johnson in 1967, Marshall became the first black ever to serve as a justice. At the time Johnson remarked of Marshall, "He has already earned his place in history" -- as indeed he had. Even after nearly a quarter of a century on the bench, he will still be remembered as one of America's great lawyers, in a class with Daniel Webster and Clarence Darrow.