Thurgood Marshall retired from the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991, nearly four decades after the Brown ruling. Law professor Randall Kennedy clerked for Marshall on the Supreme Court and knew the Justice in his old age. In his later life, Kennedy says, Marshall felt his contributions to civil rights might have been forgotten. "When you said 'civil rights revolution'," Kennedy says, "people thought immediately of King, of the people in the streets. His generation, I think he felt, had really been eclipsed."
Marshall died on January 24, 1993. He was 84 years old. Randall Kennedy and other former law clerks traveled to Washington to stand by the casket as Marshall's body lay in state at the Supreme Court building. It was a bitter, rainy night. Kennedy feared that few people would show up. What he found, Kennedy says, would have astounded Thurgood Marshall:
I remember the cab driver letting me out, and for a moment, my mouth must have gaped...The court building was surrounded by people. You had to stand on line for a long time to pay homage to that casket. And people did. I mean, people did. All sorts of ages did...People left all sorts of mementos. I remember very distinctly a person who brought the slip opinion - Brown v. Board of Education. It was sort of wrinkled; you could tell it was well-thumbed. But it was the slip opinion of Brown, and the person had written just, "thank you."
Marshall is survived by his second wife, Cecilia Marshall, and two sons, Thurgood, Jr. and John. Thurgood Marshall, Jr. practices law in the District of Columbia, and was a cabinet member in the Clinton administration. John Marshall is Secretary of Public Safety in Virginia.