Cecilia “Cissy” Marshall, the wife of the late Supreme Court Justice and civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall, died on Tuesday at age 94, the court’s public information office announced.
Like her husband, Marshall had worked for the NAACP in the 1940s and ’50s. She was born in Hawaii and moved to New York, where she became a stenographer, according to details of her early life provided by the court. No cause of death was given.
Thurgood Marshall, the first Black justice in the court’s history, had retired in 1991 and died in 1993. But Cecilia Marshall, known for her warmth, exuberance, and enduring interest in the court, continued to attend oral arguments and extracurricular court festivities, often with their son Thurgood Marshall Jr.
“You wanted to sit next to her at any event,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement Tuesday that captured her personality. “She had an easy sense of humor that could be – in an appropriate setting, of course – a bit saucy.”
He noted that Marshall often sat in a reserved section for spouses at oral arguments and Supreme Court Historical Society events. Roberts said she rarely missed an investiture or other Supreme Court occasion.
Justice Elena Kagan, who was a law clerk for Justice Marshall during the 1987-88 session, said in a statement on Tuesday, “Every clerk to Justice Marshall received a sort of bonus: the steadfast friendship and support of his wife Cissy. She was a wonderful woman, and we all loved and admired her. The community of TM clerks will today feel a great loss.”
Born Cecilia Suyat in 1928 in Pu’unene, Maui, in Hawaii, she would later move to New York City, where she took night classes at Columbia University to become a stenographer. She worked for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1948-1955.
Thurgood Marshall, before joining the bench in 1967, led the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. In that position, he was chief counsel for the series of cases that led to the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision striking down the “separate but equal” doctrine in public schools.
The couple married in December 1955 and had two sons, Thurgood Jr. and John.
Cecilia Marshall, who lived in Falls Church, Virginia, served over the years on the board of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Supreme Court Historical Society. The Supreme Court public information office said she was also active in church activities and community service. In addition to her two sons, she is survived by four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.