Thurgood Marshall Legacy
Following is a reprint of an article written by Thelma Jones and published in the August 2008 edition of the Southwester.
Mrs. Thurgood Marshall is Active in Southwest
Cecilia “Cissy” Suyat Marshall is no stranger to equal rights activism. Married for 38 years to the late Thurgood Marshall, the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court, Cissy saw a lot of the world through the unparalleled prism of her husband’s work for justice and equality for all. Born July 20, 1928 in Puunene, Maui, Hawaii, her parents were among the first immigrants to Hawaii in 1910 from the Philippines Island. In 1948, she journeyed to the Big Apple to live with her maternal aunt and uncle, who were completing their Masters at Columbia University. She immediately began taking night classes in court stenographer at Columbia University. During that same year, she got a position as a secretary to the National Director of the NAACP branches in New York. While working at the NAACP branches, Cissy admitted receiving her “first baptism to the racial challenges” and has been motivated since to help make a difference in the lives of others. She met and married Thurgood Marshall in December 1955. He was then director of the NAACP’s Legal Department. The Marshalls would go on to rear two wonderful children, Thurgood, Jr. and John.
Currently, Thurgood Jr. is a partner at the law firm of Bingham, McCutcheum, LLP. John worked as a Virginia State Trooper prior to becoming Deputy and subsequently Director of the United States Marshals Service, our nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Currently, he is Secretary for Public Safety for the Commonwealth of Virginia. From 1970 to present, Mrs. Marshall has been an active member of the National Capital Auxiliary (lawyers’ wives from DC, MD, and VA) which hosts the annual DC Essay Contest for the Sixth Graders in DC Public Schools. Since the early 1970s and under sponsorship of Justice Marshall, award ceremonies for this program have been held at the U.S. Supreme Court. Cissy has also been a member of the Marshall-Brennan Fellowship Program at the American University Law School since 1989. From 1993 to 2000, she volunteered with the Bar Association for the City of New York, focusing her efforts on the New York Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program. Cissy has served since 1998 on the board of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) in New York, the organization that her husband headed for many years.
Cissy remains one of the longest serving and most dedicated members of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Southwest Washington, DC. Joining in 1965, Cissy often reminisces of days when the church worshiped at the Old Hogates Restaurant on the Southwest Waterfront and how members of the parish paraded to the newly-completed church at 6th & M St. SW. Speaking of St. Matthew’s plans to build a new community center on their site at 222 M Street, Pastor Phillip Huber said, “Naming the center The Thurgood and Cecilia Marshall Southwest Community Center was an easy decision for us. The Marshalls raised their family in Southwest, went to church in Southwest, and were an integral part of the community. This was also a way for us to give honor to one of the women who had been a leader in the civil rights movement.” Her efforts with the church and the nation in general are both recognized and praised by St. A’s Rev. Martha Clark, Priest-in-Charge.
"Cissy is a beloved member of our church family, known for her wonderful sense of humor and tremendous generosity. Cissy blesses our life together with her continued witness to racial diversity, equal opportunity and to building a community where all are welcome. She is one of our country’s great woman of faith and committed service.”