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A Man for His Time

Charles Hamilton Houston, dean of the Howard Law School, taught his students to view law as an instrument of social engineering, and Thurgood Marshall, one of Houston's top students in the early 1950's, never forgot this basic lesson. As a leading advocate in the nation, Marshall served as a catalyst for social change as he led the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education.

Mark Tushnet charts Marshall's career post-NAACP. Though he recounts the life of Marshall the judge rather than Marshall the advocate, the reader quickly learns that the two are separated only by a black robe. Marshall never wore the so-called judicial mask, permitting him to decide a case based on law rather than personal beliefs. To the very end. Marshall remained Dean Houston's social engineer. Tushnet, who served as Marshall's law clerk, is to be commended for the honesty in his account of his former boss's time on the Supreme Court. Except for a minor lapse when discussing affirmative action, the author never pretends Marshall was anything but a social engineer who invented the necessary law when he perceived a societal problem. This short book covers much ground and unintentionally highlights what is wrong with modern American jurisprudence.

Tushnet begins his book with Marshall's appointment to Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the most prestigious appellate...

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