The feast of Thurgood Marshall is celebrated on May 17 and has now been added to the church’s Calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. This feast day is appropriately held on the day of the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.
The evolution of the Feast of Thurgood Marshall began when St. Augustine’s in Washington DC sponsored a resolution at the 2006 Diocesan Convention to add Justice Thurgood Marshall, a longtime member of its congregation, to the Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Deputies to the Diocese of Washington DC’s annual convention voted and submitted a resolution at the 2006 General Convention requesting inclusion of Thurgood Marshall in the Church’s book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Lesser Feasts and Fasts is a collection of collects, lessons, and psalms for the Eucharist on each weekday of Lent, the Easter season, and each of the lesser feasts of the church year. It is used in addition to the major feasts and saints included in the Book of Common Prayer.
In written testimonies accompanying the resolution, a priest of Marshall’s former parish stated that, “The Spirit working through this man gave him an intuitive sense of justice in which he saw all of life as sacred and all persons equal before God.”
In 2009, Holy Women, Holy Men, a new calendar, introduced a large number of new commemorations, including one to celebrate Thurgood Marshall’s life and work as a life-long Episcopalian and moreover a “Public Servant, Lawyer, Jurist, and Prophetic Witness.”
The calendar was not given final approval at the General Convention of 2012. At the 2015 General Convention another calendar, entitled A Great Cloud of Witnesses, was presented. This incorporated much of Holy Women, Holy Men. It was approved on its first presentation but was not given final approval at the following Convention in 2018. A new version of Lesser Feasts and Fasts was approved for use in 2018 through 2021.
In Resolution Number-A066 the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music at the 79th General Convention proposed to make Lesser Feasts and Fasts permenant and it was so resolved that Thurgood Marshall, Pauli Murray, and Florence Li Tim-Oi be made included in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018.
Thurgood Marshal was a prodigious, brilliant trial attorney, Federal circuit court Judge, Solicitor General, and Supreme Court Justice. He possessed physical courage and demonstrated intellectual brilliance, and a man of great faith further, he was abhorrent to and disregarded fame and wealth. Thurgood Marshall is best known as the Supreme Court justice who constantly advocated civil and human rights for those most vulnerable in our society throughout his tenure as an attorney, federal appeals court judge, solicitor general, and USSupreme Court justice. Marshall& had argued and won the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case before the Supreme Court. The decision declared the Separate but Equal Doctrine was unconstitutional, and public schools were then ordered to desegregate throughout the nation. Brown was the first of several cases that challenged state-sponsored discrimination paving& the way for integration in our society.
Thurgood Marshall was a cradle Episcopalian and began attending Saint Katherine’s in Baltimore, Maryland where he was baptized and later confirmed. He lived and worshipped there until he moved to New York in 1936.
On the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1962, Marshall made his way to St. Philip’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Harlem, where he was a vestry board member, and bowed his head to receive the St. Philip’s Rector’s Award from the Rev. Dr. M. Moran Weston. Marshall lived for almost three decades in Harlem. He was active on the Vestry and served as Senior Warden and as Deputy to the 1964 General Convention.
Moving to Washington DC Marshall attended Saint Augustine’s Episcopal Church where he and his family, wife Cecilia Suyat, and sons Thurgood Marshall Jr., and John W. Marshall attended from 1965 until the years before his death in 1993. The great gift of these three African American parishes Marshall attended during his youth till his period on the High court offered comfort, support, guidance and nurtured his faith, to help him face injustice, and to use the judicial system to fight it.
The lessons appointed by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music for use on the Feast of Thurgood Marshall, public Servant, 1993 Includes the Collect:
Eternal and ever-gracious God, who blessed your servant Thurgood Marshall with grace and courage to discern and speak the truth: Grant that, following his example, we may know you and recognize that we are all your children, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Scripture to be taken from the Old Testament, Amos 5:10-15, Psalm 34:15-22, and the New Testament, The Gospel of Matthew 23:1-11.
Thurgood Marshall had a great affinity with the Old Testament prophet, Amos, from whose Old Testament book, the first reading for the liturgy to be celebrated on Thurgood Marshall’s feast day, is taken. “Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love well and establish justice in the gate…But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos: 5:15, 24).
Justice Thurgood Marshall was both a wise and Godly man who knew his place and role in history and obeyed God’s call to follow justice wherever it led. Marshall said this, “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.”
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- Bio updated, Brett Kynard has completed his term as Junior Warden.