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First African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sworn In 50 Years Ago

Frank Wolfe
A meeting between Thurgood Marshall and President Johnson on June 13, 1967, the day Johnson nominated Marshall to the Supreme Court

Fifty years ago today — Oct. 2, 1967 — Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first African-American justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. A former White House aide says President Lyndon B. Johnson knew he was going to nominate Marshall from the moment he became president in 1963.

“Both of them knew it would be a really vicious battle in the confirmation process,” said Joseph A. Califano Jr., Johnson’s Chief Assistant for Domestic Affairs from 1965 to 1969.

“The southern Senators who controlled these committees, they believed in segregation as a way of life. They believed that blacks should walk on the other side of the street. All of that came out during this hearing,” Califano said.

But with an impeccable nominee and a strong president who knew how Washington worked, “you could overwhelm all the racism,” he said.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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