Cecilia “Cissy” Marshall, a former NAACP legal secretary and wife of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall died at 94. According to CNN, the court’s public information officer announced that she died on Tuesday.
Marshall was born Cecilia Surat in 1928 in Hawaii, the Daily Beast reports. Her parents were Filipino immigrants. According to The Washington Post, she moved to New York after World War II and took night classes to become a court stenographer.
Marshall told the Post in a 2016 interview that while she was at an employment office a clerk “saw my dark skin, and she sent me to the national office of the NAACP.” She went on to become a legal secretary for the NAACP, working on school desegregation cases with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Thurgood Marshall led the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund before becoming a Supreme Court Justice in 1967. According to CNN, the couple married in 1955 and had two sons: Thurgood Jr. and John.
Cecilia was reluctant to get married after, according to The Washington Post. Interracial marriage was still taboo at the time and she feared people would think Thurgood was marrying a “foreigner.”
Current Supreme Court Justices spoke highly of the Filipino American trailblazer.
“You wanted to sit next to her at any event,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement Tuesday, according to CNN. “She had an easy sense of humor that could be – in an appropriate setting, of course – a bit saucy.”
Justice Elena Kagan, who clerked for Justice Marshall from 1987-1988, felt fortunate to call “Cissy” a friend.
“Every clerk to Justice Marshall received a sort of bonus: the steadfast friendship and support of his wife Cissy,” Kagan said in a statement, according to CNN. “She was a marvelous woman, and we all loved and admired her. The community of TM clerks will today feel a great loss.”
Cecilia “Cissy” Marshall is survived by her two sons, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
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