Justice Marshall is model for kids


January 29, 1993|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

Douglass High School yesterday paid tribute to Thurgood Marshall, a member of the class of 1925 who became one of great legal minds in the battle against segregation and eventually rose to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

During the tribute, Shirley Hill, principal of the West Baltimore school, described Mr. Marshall as a mischievious student who was forced to read the U.S. Constitution as punishment for his misdeeds. Some historians say the punishment sparked Mr. Marshall's love for the law.

Mr. Marshall died Sunday of a heart failure at age 84. He had retired in 1991 after serving for 24 years on the nation's highest court.

He will be buried today at Arlington National Cemetery in a private ceremony.

At Douglass High, the students paid homage to Mr. Marshall in a ceremony that was taped and is scheduled to be broadcast today on Channel One, a television news program that is seen in schools across the country and is available to 45 city middle and high schools.

The U.S. flag at Douglass High was flown at half-staff yesterday and many students -- some of whom learned of Justice Marshall's civil rights efforts only after they had enrolled in the XTC school -- were somber much of the day.

A wreath was laid at the base of a 9-foot statue of the justice in the school's Thurgood Marshall lobby.

Tybon Boyd, a ninth-grader, said he is proud to attend the same school that one of his idols attended.

"I don't know everything about him, but I know that he tried hard and fought to make it good for blacks to be where they are today," he said.

Mr. Marshall was born in Baltimore in 1908, and attended Douglass from 1921 to 1925, when it was located at Calhoun and Baker streets.

Cedonia Williamson, who heads the school's social studies department, said Mr. Marshall will always be a role model for the school's students -- many of whom live in areas where crime is rampant and the lure of the streets is strong.

"We try to instill in the kids that we have role models, most of them are historical, but there are others than athletes," Ms. Williamson said.

Shannon Wilson, a 17-year-old junior, likened himself in some ways to the descriptions he has heard of Justice Marshall.

"He was an average student, I'm an average student. He was a go-getter, I'm a go-getter," Shannon said. "He left a mark for me and all students to follow that we can go on and do good things."

The youth said he is not sure about his future career but he is encouraged to know that he has things in common with Justice Marshall. "He's an inspiration," Shannon said.

"When I heard that he had died, I was surprised. He's the kind of person like Martin Luther King that should never die. You hope, you think, that he would never die," he said.

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