School of Public Policy Building Named for Thurgood Marshall

Future Supreme Court Justice Helped Desegregate UMD

The University of Maryland named its new School of Public Policy building for the late civil rights lawyer and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, recognizing his role in breaking down barriers for African American students, including the desegregation of the University of Maryland.

“Today marks another historic step in our efforts at the University of Maryland to create a multicultural, inclusive community that gives everyone a chance to succeed,” UMD President Darryll J. Pines said at a February celebration.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore told the audience—which included Thurgood Marshall, Jr., the justice’s son—that the naming of Thurgood Marshall Hall is an obligation to uphold his legacy.

“It means every single day as the work is being done here, it must be done with a full focus on the way that Justice Marshall lived his life,” he said. “And that was without boundaries.”

Opened in Fall 2022, the state-of-the-art building, with its multifunctional and high-tech spaces, supports the school’s mission to advance the public good by drawing together students, faculty and other experts to foster world-changing policy discourse and action.

“Thurgood Marshall was an exemplary policy shaper, policymaker, analytical thinker, powerful advocate, defender of democracy, guardian of civil and human rights, and inspiring leader,” said Dean Robert C. Orr. “He embodied everything our School of Public Policy aspires to, and stands for.”

“This recognition serves as a testament to his legacy as an unapologetic trailblazer for justice and equality.”

Thurgood Marshall family

Born in Baltimore, Marshall was barred from applying to the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore in 1930 because he was Black. Soon after his graduation from Howard University Law School, where he was first in his class, Marshall joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. He sued the University of Maryland on behalf of another Black student seeking admission to the law school and was part of the team that launched successful legal battles against the university on behalf of Parren Mitchell and Hiram Whittle, who were denied admission. In 1950, Mitchell became the first Black student to take graduate classes on the College Park campus, and a year later, Whittle enrolled as the university’s first Black undergraduate student.

Marshall went on to argue the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which declared segregation unconstitutional. He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1967 and held the role of associate justice for 24 years.

“This recognition serves as a testament to his legacy as an unapologetic trailblazer for justice and equality,” the Marshall family said in a statement. “The inspiring work the school does every day to create the next generation of students embodies what was at his core—ensuring a more just and equitable world for all.”

The naming of Thurgood Marshall Hall builds on one of the initiatives Pines announced on his first day in office: the namings of Yahentamitsi dining hall to honor the Indigenous people of Maryland and of Jones-Hill House and the Pyon-Chen and Johnson-Whittle residence halls, recognizing trailblazers from under-represented communities.


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