As I sat in the audience at Hibernian Hall on January 14th, watching this one man performance of Thurgood, I remembered the man and civil right lawyer who became the first African American Supreme Court Justice in my time. Though I never read the biography on Thurgood Marshall, I saw him through Johnny Lee Davenport’s performance of the most brilliant, caring and strong man of the law I had seen. Davenport brought Thurgood’s life from his beginnings as a child of educated and professional parents to his retirement and subsequent death. How Thurgood was named after his grandfather Thurogood Marshall from Africa then he shortened it to Thurgood when he entered elementary school.
Davenport’s performance of Thurgood Marshall was so complete and amazing that many aspects of his life came to light for me. He spoke of his dad taking him to court proceedings where at an early age he began his legal education. Thurgood memorized the constitution as punishment when he got into mischief in school. In Davenport’s performance as Marshall he often referred back to the Constitution where all laws of this country originate for all and which for 27 years was his legal guide.
Thurgood Marshall was married twice, to Buster from 1929 until her death in 1955 and he remarried to Cecilia in 1955 to his death in 1993. That marriage produced two sons, Thurgood, Jr. and John.