Juan Williams
Juan Williams
Thurgood Marshall:  American Revolutionary
ISBN: 0812920287
Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary
From the bestselling author of Eyes on the Prize, here is the definitive biography of the great lawyer and Supreme Court justice. Thurgood Marshall stands today as the great architect of American race relations, having expanded the foundation of individual rights for all Americans. His victory in the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the landmark Supreme Court case outlawing school segregation, would have made him a historic figure even if he had not gone on to become the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court. As a young lawyer, Marshall dealt with criminal cases in which blacks were routinely sent to their deaths with barely a trial, and he was once nearly lynched while defending a client.

Remembered as a gruff, aloof figure, Marshall in fact had great charisma and a large appetite for life. Away from the courtroom, he was a glamorous figure in Harlem circles, known as a man-about-town who socialized with prizefighter Joe Louis, singer Cab Calloway, and other black luminaries. He lived in every decade of the century and knew every president from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, becoming a respected member of Washington's power elite, known for his savvy and quick wit. But beneath Marshall's charm was a hard-nosed drive to change America that led to surprising clashes with Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X. Most intriguing of all was Marshall's secret and controversial relationship with FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, revealed here for the first time.

Based on eight years of research and interviews with over 150 sources, Thurgood Marshall is the sweeping and inspirational story of an enduring figure in American life, a descendant of slaves who became a true hero for all people. As Juan Williams shows, in page after vivid page, Thurgood Marshall fulfilled the promise of democracy and changed our history.
—from the publisher's website

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TRANSCRIPT
Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary
Program Air Date: October 11, 1998

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Juan Williams, author of How much time did you spend around the man?
JUAN WILLIAMS: I had a real privilege, Brian. I got to interview Marshall for a six month period in 1989, beginning in about June, ending in about December, and then in several visits to his chambers in the year or so after that. Got to know Thurgood Marshall. And this was at the end of his career, end of his life. It was a rich time and one in which he was willing to talk. I felt, you know, it's been a great gift to me.
LAMB: How many hours?
WILLIAMS: I have in hand about 20-something hours of taped interviews with Marshall. And some of the interviews weren't taped. But I would guess, if you boiled it down to hours, you know, two days, 48 hours or so, that I could say in a lifetime I spent in his presence.
LAMB: What was he like?
WILLIAMS: That's tough. But I think that one of the interesting things you do as a writer as you go over someone's life is you see them at different moments, so they have different incarnations and different ways of being. But at the time that I knew him as a person, he was sort of a curmudgeonly, witty old man, a guy who was suffering from glaucoma. His eyes would tear up occasionally. He wore those white socks because he had circulation trouble in his leg, walked with a cane; a man who told me he ate his Campbell soup for lunch every day because he'd had enough surprises in life. He liked the consistency of Campbell soup.

So that's what he was like at that time. He was into being the curmudgeon.
LAMB: Here's a picture of him at this desk. Where is that?
WILLIAMS: In the Supreme Court. That was in his chambers at the Supreme Court. And if you look carefully on that desk, you'll see there's a bust of Frederick Douglass, another famous Baltimore person; Marshall having been born in Baltimore. And that was a wonderful room he had, because on the wall he had skins from trips to Africa. He had helped to write the Kenyan Constitution back in 1960. He had been friends with Jomo Kenyatta; had gone back for celebrations, and he had spears on the wall as well. So a very interesting chamber.
LAMB: A quote here from - I had it here. Well, here it is. Thomas Krattenmacher, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Quote: "He is certainly the most important lawyer of the 20th Century."
WILLIAMS: Right.
LAMB: Do you agree with that?
WILLIAMS: I think that's right. Now I can't claim to have studied every lawyer in this century. But if you do a quick survey in your mind, if you think about who has changed the legal landscape in the country, you'd have to put Marshall up there. This is very interesting, because in this town, in Washington, D.C., Marshall felt greatly under-appreciated by the legal community. And, in fact, there were people who argued at the time of his confirmation, first, to the Second Circuit in the early '60s, and then to the Supreme Court, that he really wasn't that great a lawyer, that he wasn't a brilliant legal mind. But what he did nonetheless was he was able to gather strings together in legal thought and legal argument, make the presentation. Most people in the legal fraternity will say he was an outstanding advocate. He could stand before that Supreme Court and argue like no other. He was before the Court as an advocate 32 times, won 29 of those cases. Before the Court in terms of his Solicitor General work, outstanding. I think he was there 19 times and won 14 of those cases. If you look at this record on the Second Circuit, he was never reversed by the Supreme Court, wrote few dissents there in the Second Circuit.

What you see is that this is a winner. This is someone who is shifting the terms on which people are thinking and arguing about legal issues. And when you consider that I think everyone would agree the greatest political and social problem that the United States has faced in this century has been race relations as a domestic issue, Marshall, it seems to me, stands as a titan, a giant in terms of how he has restructured the terms on which we consider and argue and think about race in America.,
LAMB: How many years did he live?
WILLIAMS: He was born in 1908 in Baltimore and dies in 1990 - 1993, is it? Yes. Nineteen ninety-three. He's been dead five years.
LAMB: And you talk in the early part of this about the difficulty of getting into the University of Maryland Law School.
WILLIAMS: Correct.
LAMB: Why?
WILLIAMS: Well, Marshall was black. And at the time that he is ready to go to law school right after graduating from Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, the University of Maryland Law School was not accepting any applicant who was black. And Marshall really needed the opportunity to go to his state law school because his family didn't have much money. He was a middle class black kid in the city of Baltimore. His father had been a Pullman car porter and then a steward at the Gibson Island Country Club off the Chesapeake Bay. His mother was a school teacher. But they had another son who had just gone through college and who'd had a difficult time paying the tuition bill for college because the father, Thurgood's father had become ill. That son, Aubrey, was not in medical school, and they were paying the medical school bills. And now here came this young man, Thurgood Marshall. The parents actually had thought that Aubrey was the star of the family and Thurgood really wasn't as serious a student. But he came Thurgood who wanted to go to law school. And the ideal would have been for Thurgood to go just down the street; the University of Maryland Law School being in Baltimore. It would have been [ideal] for him to go to the University of Maryland Law School. But they weren't accepting blacks, and so he applied instead to Howard University Law School; would get on a train about 5:00 AM every morning from Baltimore; ride to Washington, D.C. to attend classes; not get back home till after midnight.
LAMB: I mean I have a picture I want to show, this one right here. It's got one of his mentors in it.
WILLIAMS: Charlie Houston.
LAMB: Yeah. What benefit did it eventually turn it out to be for him that he went to Howard?
WILLIAMS: It turned out to be a wonderful thing, a godsend, in that Charlie Houston....
LAMB: Which one is he in this picture?
WILLIAMS: Charlie Houston is, I guess, from the viewers' perspective, to the right of Marshall.
LAMB: This gentleman right here?
WILLIAMS: Correct.
LAMB: Okay.
WILLIAMS: And Houston had gone to Amherst, had been a Harvard Law grad, had taken part in World War I, had defended black soldiers in World War I, had a strong sense of what he wanted to do. And what he wanted to do was to make Howard University Law School into a training ground for lawyers who were going to change the world. And he had noticed at the time that he was involved with Howard - this was in the 1920s. There were about 1,000 black lawyers in the United States, only 100 of them practicing in the South. And overwhelmingly, what he was hearing from judges was you could tell the work of a black lawyer almost immediately because it was of such poor quality; the briefs were poorly written; there were misspellings; things were improperly done. And what Houston wanted to do was to transform Howard University Law School. It had been a night school. Lots of people were sort of just passing through there. The professors were part-time, not seriously committed. Houston decided to make it a day school. He got the powers of Howard University, the school that had been founded as a school to educate freed slaves, to go behind this notion that a first-rate law school to train first-rate black lawyers was necessary in America. And that's what he set out to do.

And so for Marshall, it was wonderful suddenly to come into this tradition of excellence, that here was someone who was going to make demands on him, push him to be absolutely the best lawyer, and offer him experiences, because Houston had such a wide network of connections. He was already doing some work for the NAACP at one point. Houston has Marshall help him on a criminal case in Virginia where a man is charged with the murder of a white woman, and he runs away to Boston. There's a question of extradition. Marshall gets involved in doing research. They bring him back. Marshall is there again to help as the case is argued. And to have the experience of what it's like to be a lawyer and to feel the excitement and to feel the thrill and to connect with the idea that this is about more than just winning cases. This is about changing the sociology of America with regard to race.
LAMB: What was the condition of the black-white relationships back in 1933 when he graduated from Howard?
WILLIAMS: Wow. That was a difficult time. You've got to remember this is right after the Depression when Marshall makes the decision to open his private practice in Baltimore. He can literally from his window, his office window, see bread lines. He realizes that he doesn't have much of an opportunity here to establish a practice. He's not going to get much in the way of business from whites, but he hopes that he's going to get business from blacks. That's ironic, because, as it turns out, many of the black people who needed lawyers at the time said, hey, gee, if you really need a lawyer, you better get white one who has the contacts in the court system. There were no black judges, few black politicians. After he had started this practice, the man who was in the same building with him, the major black lawyer in Baltimore, a man named Warner McQuinn, who was a Yale Law School graduate. Just as an aside, you know, Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain, had helped to pay his tuition to get him through law school. But any way, Warner McQuinn said, young man, you have a wonderful brain. I'd love to exploit it. But you need to go out and be on your own. And Marshall ends up really representing people involved with personal injury accident cases, divorce cases, anything he can get from a pretty much small black clientele. Race relations in the country were poor. You know, there still was a great deal of tension. There were still incidents of lynching going on. But more to the case, more to the point for Marshall, there was little opportunity, little hope that he was going to have success as a lawyer. There was little business for him.
LAMB: When did he first marry?
WILLIAMS: Marshall first marries right at the end of his college years. This is a really interesting time in his life. He'd really been a frat boy, you know, out for a good time. He had a really transforming experience during those college years in terms of meeting Langston Hughes, the writer, and becoming engaged in critical arguments about whether or not the faculty at Lincoln should be all white. Lincoln was called the black Princeton, because it's a Presbyterian school, and the faculty was all white, some of them Princeton graduates, some Presbyterian ministers. And Marshall was very content with an all-white faculty for this all-black, male school. Langston Hughes, who comes there, the poet, comes there as an older student, begins to put pressure on saying, you know, this isn't right. Why is it that all the faculty here are white and we have black students? Don't we trust black teachers? If we want to black lawyers, dentists, doctors, shouldn't we have faith in other black professionals? And Marshall, at first, is very dismissive of this and says "Gosh, it means that people at Hampton and Howard and the other black schools aren't going to think as much of us if we change. It's possible that teachers will be members of other fraternities and may practice favoritism in the classroom." He doesn't really believe that there really should be integration of the faculty. And it's only after he has an incident where he goes down to a movie house on a Saturday afternoon and tries to sit down in the mezzanine area instead of up in the balcony where colored were supposed to sit and is rousted and run back to campus and starts to get the sense, you know, "This isn't right." And Hughes is knocking at the door. You know, "What happened to you? You paid your money, didn't get to see your western movie." Marshall begins to change. And as he begins to change, he gets this racial consciousness for the first time, that he's not to be content with the kind of segregation that he's seen practiced.
LAMB: So what kind of a marriage was his first marriage?
WILLIAMS: Well, what happened -- I was leading into that - was that his consciousness is being rousted at this moment, and the parting is starting to die down when he has a terrible accident. He is coming back from a trip, and he is running to catch up with a truck and he lands on the hitch of the truck and severely damages a testicle; it has to be removed. And it really had a tremendous impact on his life and on his thinking. Suddenly he was in the mood to settle down. And so his first marriage comes to Vivian Burry, a woman who is a co-ed at the University of Pennsylvania. And he is married to her in his senior year at Lincoln, which he graduates in 1930.
LAMB: How long were they married?
WILLIAMS: Wow. They were married until right after Brown, 1955. She dies of cancer, sort of a horrible death in which she wasted away. And he tried to be with her as much as he could, and his life with her was interesting in that he was on the road a great deal. He was, as you know, lead lawyer for the NAACP. He had to travel all over the country. And they didn't have children, which was a great frustration to him, I think partly tied to the fact that he wanted evidence that he could father a child, having lost a testicle, and it was very important to him. His brother had had a child at a young age, and he wanted a child. But she had several miscarriages, and it lent a chill to the relationship, although she was a great supporter of his. But more and more, he found himself on the road and away from home.
LAMB: Kind of the context. In 1933 he graduated from Howard. In 1961, he was appointed to the U.S. Second....
WILLIAMS: Circuit.
LAMB: ....Second Circuit. Over how many years during '33 to '61 did he spend with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund?
WILLIAMS: All of it.
LAMB: The entire time?
WILLIAMS: The entire time. I mean, except, I should say, really '38 to '61, because '33 to about '38, he's in Baltimore. But even during that time that he's in Baltimore in private practice, much of his work is taken up with NAACP affairs. Houston is up in New York running the NAACP's legal office as a one-man show. And he's relying on Marshall oftentimes to do work for him. And Marshall comes into relationship with a man named Carl Murphy, who was the head of the Afro-American in Baltimore. And Mr. Carl, as he was called, was a real bantam rooster of a character and very much a man who was involved in trying to improve race relations in Maryland and began to use Marshall and Marshall's legal skills to work on the race issue in that state. So Marshall began almost from the time that he gets out of law school, finding that this was his calling and that people who were trying to create a strong NAACP chapter in Baltimore were making use of him, that Houston was making use of him from New York for national issues. And he begins to pester Houston from early on, that "Please, can I come up and join your staff?" The NAACP, at first, doesn't have the money. But by '38, the decision is made to bring Marshall on board.
LAMB: In '81, he was nominated to be on that Second Circuit. How long was he on the Second Circuit?
WILLIAMS: He's on the Second Circuit from '61 until he becomes Solicitor General in '65. But the story there really is the difficulty in getting confirmed. He's a recess appointment by President Kennedy, the Kennedy administration.
LAMB: The Second Circuit in New York City?
WILLIAMS: It's in New York City. It covers more than New York City, but it's in New York City. And the difficulty was that, at first, that Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General, did not want to take the risk of appointing Thurgood Marshall to an appeals level court. He was more content to say, well, okay, Thurgood Marshall has earned some spurs. People know who he is. He's Mr. Civil Rights in much of black America, and he is the black lawyer. But we don't want to offend southern senators or anybody who might remember his work for the NAACP, especially with the Brown case, which had caused such a political stir. But we'll give him a district court job.

Marshall refuses. Marshall says "I don't want a district court job. It's an appeals court job or nothing"; even has a meeting with Kennedy in which he says, you know, you may not believe it, but I'm used to nothing. I know how to live with nothing. So it's nothing or the Second Circuit. And with the intervention of Louie Martin, who was one of the vice chairs of the Democratic National Committee, a black man who had been editor of several papers in the Midwest, finally Robert Kennedy gets turned around, and Marshall is nominated for the Second Circuit seat. But the opposition of those southern senators was very real. And you have people, including Senator Eastland and others, who stop Marshall from getting confirmed to that court for a year. And there's a real question as to whether or not he's going to make it. Every kind of charge was brought up against him, ties to communists, that he was stirring up trouble for no reason by trying to get black people to take part in these lawsuits with the NAACP. All of the grudges that some of these southern politicians held against the NAACP were played out in those hearings.
LAMB: There's a word that, as you know, is very difficult to use, but you use it in this book all the time. And I want you to tell us how it's used by the two different sides. The word is "nigger." And Thurgood Marshall uses it all the time, and so do people like Senator Eastland use it.

Can you explain? I mean, was it hard for you? Tell us about that word today as you look at it. What does it mean?
WILLIAMS: Oh, God. You know, that's a very disturbing word for me, personally. I don't use it personally. And I'd say that I don't use that. If, you know, Brian Lamb is black and I'm sitting here and we're just joking as two buddies, I don't use the word. And I think it's because it has a tremendous emotional, negative emotional impact on me personally. It feels demeaning, and it feels as if my essence, my humanity is being erased. So I try not to use it.

Now in terms of someone like Eastland, you can understand how Eastland would use it in the most derogatory of sense, to put down black people and to establish that their station in life is less than his as a white man. Marshall, on the other hand, I find uses the term with a sort of alacrity, almost as humor at times, and uses it to suggest that both the irony of the black man's situation in America. At one point, after he had read a headline. He read a headline about a black man falling into a tar pit and people trying to help him out. And the headline on the story in this paper was "Nigger in a Pit." And he went around the office at the NAACP, all of us friends and associates told me, shouting this out, "Nigger in a pit. Nigger in a pit," like it was like the most absurd. It was absurdist comedy to him that anyone would write such a thing, or what did it mean. You know, "black man stuck in a pit in America."

But even in casual conversation at times, he could use that word and understand the loathing with which it was used to convey the sense of the black man's situation in America.
LAMB: Here's a quote after he was appointed to the Supreme Court. "We went to Mr. Henry's on Capitol Hill and had our three martinis," Claiborne said. "He picked me up, and here he was in this cream colored, gaudy, 20 foot Cadillac, and he says to me 'See this? I haven't gotten my first paycheck yet. But that's the nigger in me. I went out and bought one of these for me and one for Sissy.'"
WILLIAMS: Right. That "Sissy" is his wife. And that's Louis Claiborne, who was in the Solicitor General's Office with him. And he was bragging. And I think in this sense, this is the comedic sense in which he uses the word. He is saying, hey, look, this is the braggart, the guy in me who was the poor person who never had much. And, you know, in Marshall's life, he was always either an NAACP attorney, a judge, you know, federal official as Solicitor General or Supreme Court; never had a lot of money. And I think, for him, this was a show-off, and he felt this was real attitude. And so he uses that word to convey with some humor that here's sort of an Amos and Andy type behavior.
LAMB: Well, on the next page, though, you talk about his first meeting with Earl Warren, who was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. "I just asked," he said in an interview later - and when you say, by the way, "I just asked," and these are your words, "he said in an interview later," is that the interview that you had with him?
WILLIAMS: Correct.
LAMB: Because I tried to figure out where it was, because it's not footnoted in your book.
WILLIAMS: Correct. Everybody knows, I say up-front, these are interviews that he had with me. So I thought it would be redundant to footnote those time and time again.
LAMB: Later on, he says "When he asked about the Brown case, all conversation ceased," meaning Thurgood Marshall asking about the Brown case. "And the Chief Justice gave him a chilly stare. At that moment Marshall thought to himself that even though he was now in 'the club,' in quotes, he was, quote, 'still a nigger,'" unquote.
WILLIAMS: Right.
LAMB: Now what's that reference, then, from the way that he thought that Earl Warren was looking at him?
WILLIAMS: Well, in contrast to the Louis Claiborne situation where he had bought the Cadillac and he thinks he's being sort of boisterous and show-offish and he's using that word with comedic overtones, here what he's suggesting is he was now on the Supreme Court. He was now part of the brethren, if you will. But when it came to this piece of information that he had been - I don't think it's an overstatement to say lusting after for many years after the Brown case, he wanted to know about a dissent that had been penned, although not submitted by Justice Reed. And he goes and he asks, you know, "Can I see this dissent? What did that dissent say? What was that argument about?" He's told "No, let's not ask about it; let's not talk about it." And he feels excluded from "the club." And as such, he feels diminished and small, and then uses the "n" word to describe his emotional state, that he feels that even though he's part of the brethren, he's a Supreme Court justice for these United States, he's not part of "the club." And I think that's what it suggests.

I might add here it's ironic that while most of the liberal justices on the Court rebuffed him in his efforts to find out about that dissent, he finally goes to Tom Clark, the man he succeeded on the Court, a man who's fairly conservative, and it was Tom Clark who sat down and talked with him and told him what the dissent was about.
LAMB: Where is this photograph from on your cover?
WILLIAMS: That photograph is from Birmingham, and that's the Autherine Lucy case. Marshall is arguing for her admission to the University of Alabama. And he's come out of a courtroom there, and he's being followed by Ms. Lucy and many of her supporters.
LAMB: And right here, right under your name, it says you're the author of Eyes on the Prize. What's that? And what year did that come out?
WILLIAMS: Eyes on the Prize was a book that I wrote. It's a companion volume to the PBS series of the same name, 1987, '88, and done by Henry Hampton and the Black Side Production crew up in Boston. The documentary and the book chronicles the civil rights years, '54 through '65, when it was my sense that really you had the highlight, the golden moments of the American civil rights movement going on. 'Fifty-four is when Brown occurs, when the end of segregation is really in sight in America. You go through incidents such as Little Rock. You go through the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. You see the effort being made, the Great March on Washington, Martin Luther King's speech. You see so much going on in this country. It's a transformative moment in the century.
LAMB: Where are you from originally?
WILLIAMS: I was born in Colon, Panama. And my mom brought three kids to Brooklyn, New York when I was three years old. So I don't speak Spanish, and I don't know much about Panama. I'm really a kid from Brooklyn, grew up first in Bedford-Stuyvesant and then Crown Heights, and went from there to public schools in Brooklyn, New York. In fact, in the dedication of the book, it's to my parents Roger and Alma Williams. Then upstate New York. I got a scholarship to go to a prep school, a Quaker prep school, Oakwood School in Poughkeepsie, New York, then to Haverford College right outside Philadelphia, and began working in newspapers during high school, professional newspapers during college at the Philadelphia Bulletin, which is now defunct. And then I got an internship at The Washington Post right after Haverford.
LAMB: What year?
WILLIAMS: That was 1976.
LAMB: Did you stay there then?
WILLIAMS: Sure did. I was very fortunate. They had about, as I recall all too clearly - they had 22 interns, and they offered jobs to two at the end of the summer. And I was extraordinarily fortunate that I was one of the young people that got that offer.
LAMB: Are you still on their payroll?
WILLIAMS: Correct. I'm still a staff member at The Washington Post.
LAMB: How much writing do you do for them now?
WILLIAMS: Right now I haven't been doing very much because I've been working on this book. And the book - when I started the book, I thought, you know, I'll go away for a year, maybe two, get the research under my belt, come back and do the writing. And the book really absorbed me and my attention. And so for the last five years or so, I haven't done much writing for the paper.
LAMB: And how long can you - I mean how does The Post do that when they have somebody on their staff, let 'em go for five years?
WILLIAMS: I guess they're generous. They've very kind. They've been very tolerant with me. And you know, I'm very grateful.
LAMB: Are you going to go back?
WILLIAMS: That's still up in the air, decide what my future will be if I go back to doing day-to-day journalism. I'm not sure what I want to do.
LAMB: What else do you do now? I know you appear on Fox News Channel from time to time.
WILLIAMS: Correct. The Fox News Channel, and also Fox News Sunday. And give talks, and occasionally go out and do some reporting, do things for people on a freelance basis.
LAMB: On the trip from....
WILLIAMS: I should add I'm also the host of a show called "America's Black Forum."
LAMB: On the trip from Panama to New York, what was the reason for your mom moving there?
WILLIAMS: My sister, Elena, is ten years older than I am. So at the time she was about ready to start high school. And my parents made a decision that they didn't like the way the boys in Panama were looking at that cute, young girl and wanted to make sure that she got an education. And their greatest desire was to get an American education for their children. And so given that she was about to start high school, they thought this was the time to do it. So as my children are fond of teasing, they got on a banana boat, my mom and the three kids - my dad stayed in Panama - and came to Brooklyn, New York.
LAMB: Where are your mom and dad today?
WILLIAMS: My dad's dead....
LAMB: What did he do, by the way, when he was alive?
WILLIAMS: He trained boxers. He trained fighters and then worked as an accountant when he finally came up to New York, although he still dabbled in boxing, and dabbled a little with me. I can't take a light hook pretty much, Brian, so don't throw it. And my mom was a seamstress, you know, worked in the garment district in New York, really a tough, tough business for an immigrant woman to come into, and raised those kids.
LAMB: Your youth: what kind of relationship did you have to the white word living up in New York City?
WILLIAMS: It's very interesting, because, in Brooklyn, when I was in elementary school, in 241 in Brooklyn, we had, I would say, if not half, maybe a little more than half of the student population was white and most of them were Jewish, a large Jewish population. And there was a pretty much happy relationship. There was a little bit of the shift in terms of the real estate market taking place year by year, so you saw increasing numbers of black students in the school and fewer and fewer whites. But there was no sense of strain or animosity of people fighting in the school yard, or anything like that.

Later on then, as I went to junior high school, to Levridge Junior High School in Brooklyn, then you started to see overwhelming numbers of black students, and the riots occurred. There was more and more voice from the Nation of Islam on the streets, more and more talk about black power and the Panthers. This is getting into the late '60s now, and more of a sense for me of making a choice: which way am I going here? How do I identify myself as a black man in America? Am I going to put my faith in my family's choice, which is education as opposed to people who were saying you can't get a fair shake in this country and people who were saying it's much better for you, as a talented young black man, to stand up and turn away from education and even from the church and stand with people who are interested in forming a separate society, the Nation of Islam, or people who were saying we need to tear down the society, which was sort of the black power movement, the Panthers, especially, who were, you know, a large profile in Brooklyn.
LAMB: What did Thurgood Marshall think of Malcolm X?
WILLIAMS: Marshall was very, very dismissive, did not think much of Malcolm X, thought that he was, you know, pretty much a pimp and a drug runner and didn't think that he had done much to change America. When they had meetings, when they were together, he said most of the time they were spent calling each other names, sons of bitches and everything else. There were times when he felt threatened by the black Muslims and by Malcolm X, that Malcolm X would call him some half-white son of a gun, and things like that, and that Malcolm X was always in conflict with people, with the establishment leadership. And Marshall didn't take to this at all, saw that, in his opinion, Malcolm X wasn't doing anything to advance the standing of black people in America, that Malcolm X was, first, full of all this anger and hatred towards whites that made him sort of a darling of the white media, in Marshall's opinion, and then, secondly, that once he had his trip to Mecca and had gone through his hadj and his change period, that he felt that Malcolm X might have gone through a change, might have been an interesting character, but really still was not at the forefront of creating social change in the United States and couldn't understand why subsequently people go on to celebrate him.
LAMB: You quote from somebody saying - this is Thurgood Marshall: "'I still see no reason to say he is a great person, a great Negro,' he told one interviewer, 'and I just ask a simple question. What did he ever do? Name me one concrete thing he ever did. Malcolm X was a bum. Hell, he was a damned pimp, a convicted pimp, about as low-life as you can get.'" Then you go on in the book to say that Clarence Thomas liked Malcolm X, or followed Malcolm X. Is that true?
WILLIAMS: Correct. That's right. As a matter of fact, Clarence Thomas could recite for you, almost line by line, speeches given by Malcolm X. Clarence Thomas used to collect Malcolm X speeches on tapes and records, and things, a big fan of Malcolm X because he found in Malcolm X the defiant voice, Thomas did, you know. And I think - you know, this is almost a blind spot, if you will, in terms of Marshall's composition. Marshall didn't see why young black people would become enthralled, enamored of someone who was speaking out in defiant tones against the white establishment. Marshall's take was we need to work to try to change the terms of engagement and make it more favorable for black people. We need to be engaged in changing the laws and the politics of this country.
LAMB: What did he think of Jesse Jackson?
WILLIAMS: He really did not think much of Jackson. In fact, during the '80s when Marshall was going through sort of a down period, he'd become sort of isolated in the minority on the Supreme Court as the conservative majority grows during that Reagan period, he was hoping that the NAACP would become more of a force. Instead, he sees Jackson rise to the fore, and Jackson, of course, engages in two presidential campaigns, '84 and '88. And in both cases, Marshall saw him as a blow-heart, someone who was talking a lot, didn't see that there was substantial progress being made, was very disappointed in the NAACP, that the NAACP wasn't more of a force during that period. And when it came to Jackson and Farrakhan and that whole dance, he just threw up his arms. He thought this was a waste of time and was evidence that the movement had lost its theme.
LAMB: What do he think of Bobby Kennedy?
WILLIAMS: Well, he had lots of fights with Bobby Kennedy. I recounted one before when he was trying to get on the Second Circuit. But subsequently, even when he is Solicitor General of the United States and Bobby Kennedy is a senator at that point, senator from New York and looking to run for President, Bobby Kennedy is a threat, if you remember this dynamic, a threat to Lyndon Johnson, the President who appointed Marshall as Solicitor General and then to the Supreme Court subsequently. So he's looking at Bobby Kennedy as kind of a spoiled brat, someone who didn't come to the table as a great believer in civil rights, but more of a hard ball politician who was always looking for his advantage and seeing if the civil rights issue was playing for or against him or his brother and not looking at the issue as one of a moral, important choice for all Americans as to how we treat each other, regardless of race. So he viewed Bobby Kennedy as a difficult personality.

Then, as I was trying to get to a moment ago in my talk here, when he's Solicitor General, there's a case involving wire-tapping where the FBI has done some wire-tapping on a man named Black and has led to a conviction on tax fraud.
LAMB: Let me stop you to ask you, the Solicitor General's job is what? And who does he work for?
WILLIAMS: The Solicitor General works for - supposedly represents the administration, but he's the United States representative, the representative of the people before the Supreme Court. So he comes and argues cases that the administration's Justice Department have in terms of their brief before the Supreme Court.
LAMB: So could he have found himself as Solicitor General standing up in the Court arguing for the government when he had opposed that position when he used to be with the NAACP?
WILLIAMS: Conceivably. And he was very sensitive to that matter. And I might add that there're many people who would say that that is the case in one very outstanding case called Miranda, you know, the Miranda warning that every policeman is obligated to give you if they stop you and believe that you've been involved in some criminal activity. Marshall, when he is Solicitor General of the United States, argues that it's too much to ask policemen to give this Miranda briefing, that it's going to obstruct their ability to perform their law protection duties. Many people say Marshall, as the NAACP attorney, would never have made that argument, that he was always for increasing civil liberties and civil rights, and so that you wouldn't have heard the same argument out of his voice.

So, conceivably, you have two different characters.
LAMB: Go back to your illegal bug story.
WILLIAMS: Well, on the Black case, what happens is then Marshall discovers that the FBI has placed these taps and feels obligated to tell the Supreme Court about it. J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, is not too pleased. But nonetheless, Marshall proceeds. And at some point Hoover says, well, you know, I had permission to place those taps from Robert Kennedy and the Justice Department. Kennedy says I didn't know about it; I didn't give any such permission. Hoover says to Marshall, if you're going to write this up and present this to the Supreme Court, you better be clear as to who gave permission to the FBI to do this. At that point all hell breaks loose. You've got Justice Fortas, who was then on the Court acting sort of behind closed doors talking to the President, Johnson, about this, in fact calling Marshall "a dumb Negro" to Hoover....
LAMB: Abe Fortas?
WILLIAMS: Abe Fortas.
LAMB: Democrat.
WILLIAMS: Right. And you've got at the same time Robert Kennedy and his people saying "You, Mr. Marshall, have to be clear as to who was responsible for this matter." Marshall, therefore, is put into a real vise here, a real jam. And ultimately the way he resolves this, with a tight-wire act, is to write a report that says that formerly the Justice Department had given approval, without naming Robert Kennedy, for the FBI to engage in wire-tapping, and that it was done, but it was the Robert Kennedy administration who stopped this, who called it to their attention. And Black gets off, but Hoover is happy with it, because Hoover feels that it was clear in the report that he'd had permission to go ahead, authorization to go ahead with those taps.
LAMB: Explain the Fortas situation. Abe Fortas, a close friend of Lyndon Johnson....
WILLIAMS: Correct.
LAMB: ...Used to meet with him while he was a justice....
WILLIAMS: Indeed.
LAMB: ...at the White House.
WILLIAMS: At the White House. And he would go and talk and have exchanges with the FBI Director. It was a very different time, wasn't it?
LAMB: And he called Thurgood Marshall "a dumb Negro...."
WILLIAMS: To Hoover.
LAMB: How about to Johnson?
WILLIAMS: Oh, to Johnson, he was always dismissive, thought that Marshall had gone way beyond his duty in revealing these facts to the Supreme Court. It wasn't necessary, that Marshall wasn't the brightest bulb to be, in fact, defending Robert Kennedy. Why was he defending Kennedy? He should have put the weight on Kennedy. And you could imagine Lyndon Johnson felt the same way. In fact, after this episode happens, I said that Hoover was happy with the outcome; Robert Kennedy was happy with the outcome. Lyndon Johnson may have been the one person who wasn't happy with the outcome. Subsequently, Nick Katzenbach, who was then Attorney General, is moved out of his job and sent over to the State Department, and Johnson has real questions about Thurgood Marshall, says that he doesn't think Marshall was a very good character to go to the Supreme Court and to be defending Bobby Kennedy in the use of wiretaps, that he thought it was dirty pool.
LAMB: You talked to a lot of Supreme Court justices. This is something they don't do very often.
WILLIAMS: Yes. Again.....
LAMB: How many did you talk to, total?
WILLIAMS: Gee, including retirees, I guess it was about nine or ten, or something like that.,
LAMB: And over what period of time?
WILLIAMS: Well, going back to '89, '90.
LAMB: And under what pretense would they - would you get in, or would they agree to talk to you?
WILLIAMS: No pretense. Pretty much straight up.
LAMB: Well, what I mean is what was the reason that they would....
WILLIAMS: Either I'm doing a magazine piece or I'm doing a book on Thurgood Marshall.
LAMB: Were there any ground rules on any of these justices?
WILLIAMS: No. You know, I had a little - Souter agreed to see me, for example, but I never did sit down with him. And the reason was that he said, you know, everything I've written about Marshall is on the record, and I don't want to get into - there was an episode where before he was appointed to the Court, Marshall had gone on television - and this was a time when Marshall, I think, was coming apart and sort of depressed. And he said "Who is this guy, Souter? He's nobody, never heard of him. They're just throwing people up here." And it had caused a little stir up at the Supreme Court. And I think Souter was sensitive to that and didn't want me to delve into that issue and the difficulties, the tensions that he had with Marshall, although subsequently they became - you know, Souter worked on that relationship.
LAMB: He died in 1993. How long did he stay on the Court?
WILLIAMS: Well, he was on the Court from '67 to '91, really. He was waiting until Clarence Thomas was confirmed. He had announced that he was - his retirement. But he had not quit the Court. And so even if - let's say Thomas had not been confirmed in those tumultuous hearings, Marshall would have been able to stay on for a little longer.
LAMB: When he got on the Court -- you talk about it -- Ramsey Clark-Tom Clark-Thurgood Marshall deal. Was there a deal, and what's that all about?
WILLIAMS: Well, Tom Clark was the Supreme Court justice at the time and the father of Ramsey Clark, who was acting as a Deputy Attorney General at the time. And Ramsey Clark aspired to be Attorney General of the United States. Now President Johnson set up a situation where he wanted an opening on the Court, and he makes it very clear to Tom Cark that, you know, Tom, I think you'd uncomfortable to have your son come before you as Attorney General and argue cases or to be somewhat of an advocate before you on the Supreme Court. And Tom Clark, I think, takes the hint and decides that it's time for him to step down so that his son can proceed and prosper in his career and become Attorney General of the United States. So Tom Clark steps down; Ramsey Clark becomes Attorney General, and Thurgood Marshall, then, is in position to become a Supreme Court justice. So Johnson had all the pieces in place.

Now I discovered in the Johnson Archives down at the University of Texas in Austin that there're notes right from the start, even before Marshall is put on as Solicitor General where, in Mrs. and Lady Bird Johnson's diary, she says that Lyndon has a plan to make Thurgood Marshall the first black Supreme Court justice, but wants to see how he does as Solicitor General. And Ramsey Clark, who was an intimate of the President, says that he had seen Marshall give a luncheon speech and been impressed. And as they were starting to talk about what was coming up with the Solicitor General's job, Archibald Cox, who had been a Kennedy appointee, was sort of out of favor with Johnson. But Johnson hit his head. They were on a boat on the Potomac sailing along as they were having this discussion. Johnson was laying down on the bed. When he mentions Thurgood Marshall's name, Johnson sits straight up and bumps his head on the ship's floor there and says, you know, he's going on the Supreme Court.

So right from the start, Johnson had this in mind.
LAMB: Here's a picture I'll show, but a little bit closer up, of his second wife and two boys.
WILLIAMS: Yes. That's Sissy, or Cecilia Marshall, who is a Filipino-Hawaiian born American, and two boys, Thurgood Marshall, Jr. and John Marshall. Thurgood Marshall, Jr., known as Goody, is the cabinet secretary to President Clinton, had worked for Vice President Gore, and before that Senator Ted Kennedy. And John Marshall is known around town as Marshal Marshall, because he's the U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia. So he's a U.S. Marshal.
LAMB: What impact did it have on Thurgood Marshall in the black community that he married a Filipino, and his two sons married white women?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think that it had impact in terms of his image. I think one of the things, and this is one of the reasons that I wrote this brook, Brian, is that I think lots of people sort of didn't quite understand or perceive clearly who was Thurgood Marshall. And part of this had to do, I think, with the fact that he was married to a Filipino woman, an American woman, but of Filipino ancestry, and the boys, as you point out, are married. Now Marshall in the interviews with him that I had basically said "Who cares? What's the big deal?" But I think it added to the sense that Marshall was not the black nationalist, was not the sort of black power person. And you know, lots of people, I think, lost track of him during those Supreme Court years. They saw him as sort of an aloof, distant figure in black robe. He had gotten heavy. He was curmudgeonly. He could be cantankerous. And he wasn't one of the people that was out in the front giving speeches. He wasn't the charismatic leader.

And when I was doing Eyes on the Prize, I wrote to him. I said I believe that, you know, your role in the civil rights movement, the history of this country has been undervalued. It's not being told. You read books like Simple Justice by Richard Klugger, a wonderful book, and you see the role many of the white judges had and the change in the society leading up to Brown. You read subsequent books, you know, Parting the Waters or Bearing the Cross, Taylor Branch, Dave Garrow, and again the emphasis is on Martin Luther King and the people who were in the streets, that movement. But the essence, it seems to me, of so much of the civil rights movement as I was doing Eyes on the Prize, what came to me was the changes in the law, the people who were sort of able to dig in and to create structural change in American society led by Thurgood Marshall. And yet Marshall didn't want anything to do with me. I think he pretty much thought reporters were a bunch of idiots and troublemakers; didn't want to see me; eventually decided to sign a book deal with another writer. That fell through. And it was only in the aftermath of that decision that his law clerks and some of his family persuaded him that he should talk to somebody. And so finally I got a call in The Washington Post newsroom. One of the copy aides, one of the young people who helps with the paper, thought it was a joke, hung up the phone. He called back and said "This is Thurgood Marshall."
LAMB: What year?
WILLIAMS: That was '89.
LAMB: There's a quote in here, and this is your interview with Antonin Scalia, who's on the Court right now, a conservative. And you quote Justice Scalia as saying the following. "'Marshall could be persuasive, a persuasive force by just sitting there,'" Scalia said in an interview. "'He was always in the conference a visible representation of a past that we wanted to get away from, and you knew that, as a private lawyer, he had done so much to undo racism, or at least its manifestation in and through government. Anyone who spoke in conference on one of these race issues had to be looking at Thurgood when you're speaking. You know you're talking in the presence of someone who devoted his life to that matter. Therefore, you'd better be doggone sure about it. He wouldn't have had to open his mouth to affect the nature of the conference and how seriously the conference would take matters of race.'"

Did that surprise you at all?
WILLIAMS: It did, because I think coming from Justice Scalia, you could imagine. Scalia and Marshall are on the opposite sides of many issues, including, you know, the key race issue of our time, affirmative action. So here was an opportunity for Scalia, as a sort of junior member of the Court, to say, you know, old man, your time is past, and your views are anachronistic at this moment, and given the issues that we're contending with on the Court. To the contrary, Scalia says just by being there, the weight of his presence, of Marshall's presence, was sufficient to change the nature of the discourse between the justices in their private conference. And what was also telling about this is that for some years during the '80s as Marshall became a member of the minority and the conservative majority grew on that Court, Marshall became really sort of angry, and he would have outbursts in the conference and really give them hell. And so this was an opportunity I think, too, for Scalia and others to say, you know, he was carrying on. He was ranting and raving at times about race issues because he felt we weren't giving him enough consideration and that we should have been listening to him and doing what he said. But even as Scalia understood Marshall's ranting, he understood and appreciated the fact that what Thurgood Marshall had been through, the changes that he had been able to craft in the nature of the law on race in American society had been substantial, and he respected Marshall. So it did mean a lot.
LAMB: Did you get this quote from him? "What do they know about Negroes?" talking about the justices....?
WILLIAMS: This is from Thurgood Marshall.
LAMB: "You can't name one member of this Court who knows anything about Negroes before he came to this Court. Name me one. Sure, they went to the school with one Negro in a class. Name me one who lives in a neighborhood with Negroes." And it goes on. He gave that quote to you?
WILLIAMS: That's Thurgood Marshall. Right.
LAMB: What was the most surprising thing that Thurgood Marshall ever said to you?
WILLIAMS: Well, we were having a discussion about crime and about, you know, crime waves and the difficulty in feeling unsafe. And I was saying to him, you know, you go back and forth to the Court in your limousine, and you don't get out much. But I've got to tell you. You know, there're people who are afraid of violent crime in this city, Washington, D.C., and in this country. And yet, you know, you tend not to believe in the death penalty and not to believe that people want vengeance for violent crime in this society, even though black America and all of America say that they want that. Why is that? Even if your mother was assaulted, is that the case that you would feel that way? And he said "That's right." He said, you know, "Basically, build more jails, create more courts, but follow the law, that you have to do this." And I remember being surprised at his admission, "build more jails." There're some people who would complain that there're too many jails in America. Thurgood Marshall would say build more jails, have more courts, have more law. He believed so firmly in the law and that justice was what was necessary, not kind of people taking vengeance with a death penalty.
LAMB: Quote. "I wouldn't do the job of dog catcher for Ronald Reagan."
WILLIAMS: Right. That's Thurgood Marshall talking to Carl Rowan.
LAMB: To you? Oh, to Carl Rowan.
WILLIAMS: Talking to Carl Rowan initially in an interview in the mid '80s in which he was televised, and it caused a great stir. People condemned him for making this kind of comment that was sort of undiplomatic for a member of the Supreme Court to be acting or discussing the President of the United States in such a derogatory manner. But Marshall felt that Reagan was far right wing and was, in fact, working to take apart some of the achievements that he had made, including Reagan's stand against busing and against affirmative action.
LAMB: Refused to go to Philadelphia for Warren Burger during the Bicentennial of the Constitution celebration. Why?
WILLIAMS: Right. Well, he said, basically if he was to show up, he'd have to be in one of those outfits with short pants and with a serving tray. He'd have to be a waiter or a servant, a slave servant, because if you look back on that period, he says there were no black people involved. There was no voice given to black citizens, and blacks weren't even regarded as fully citizens of the Republic. So he thought that that would be ludicrous.
LAMB: Who was Monroe Dowling?
WILLIAMS: Monroe Dowling was Marshall's very good friend for many years. And Monroe Dowling, who was a graduate of Harvard as a accountant, worked for Rockefeller, worked for the mob, a very interesting character. And....
LAMB: Is he in this picture right here, by the way?
WILLIAMS: No. His wife is in that picture. That's Bill Hastie there. That's the christening of Thurgood Marshall's first son, Thurgood Marshall, Jr., on the steps of St. Phillips in Harlem. And you can see Sissy Marshall down there with the baby, and holding the baby is one of Thurgood's - Ms. Lampkin, Daisy Lampkin, of the NAACP.
LAMB: Well, Monroe Dowling is quoted in your book a lot saying some very personal things....
WILLIAMS: Oh, absolutely.
LAMB: I mean let me read one here.
WILLIAMS: Sure.
LAMB: Quote. "'See, he would get drunk and get out of the house and get on to the street,' Dowling said in an interview." Is that to you?
WILLIAMS: Correct.
LAMB: "'And in his drunkenness, he would accost women, any woman. He had no choice about that women business. One of these days, we thought, he was going to grab some woman, and her husband was going to kill him.' Dowling recalled one episode in which Sissy and a friend had to drag Marshall into the house after he grabbed a woman.'" Quote, "'With whiskey, he could not discriminate,' Dowling recalled."
WILLIAMS: Yeah. Dowling said this with sadness that Marshall, as he came onto the Court, and even from the time he was Solicitor General, that as his life became more circumscribed, as he was more isolated here in Washington - you know, all the time he was in the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, he's up in New York. He had a wider society of friends and people that he frequented. Here in Washington, his life became very tight and closed off, and he began to drink more. People talk about three martini lunches even as Solicitor General. And the way that he would let off steam increasingly was with the liquor. And Monroe Dowling says that these incidents would happen with women on the streets and that they would cause great tension to the point where, according to Monroe Dowling, Sissy Marshall's decision to move the family out to suburban Virginia, to Lake Barcroft, is tied into the fact that there would be fewer neighbors directly adjacent to hear, you know, all the little episodes and to report on what was going on, that they would have more privacy and the boys would have more green space to run around.
LAMB: You've quoted often the 1971 oral history project at Columbia University. Who did that?
WILLIAMS: I forget the name of the interviewer at this moment. But that's Ron Grele in the Columbia Oral History Project.
LAMB: How significant is it?
WILLIAMS: Oh, terrific. A terrific resource. At the time that I did the magazine piece, Marshall arranged for me to get in there.
LAMB: The average person couldn't get this?
WILLIAMS: Couldn't get the materials at the time. And in there you see some of the comments about Robert Kennedy, about his true feelings about Robert Kennedy, about Martin Luther King, Malcolm X. And so it was very revealing. The idea was that it was done to be released at the time of his death.
LAMB: Of what value was it for you to get the papers at the Library of Congress, which were released right after his death?
WILLIAMS: They were not as valuable, for instance, as the Columbia oral history. If you recall, there was a great, great controversy here in Washington when those papers were opened at the time of his death. People felt that Marshall may have been fooled, that he never intended for the papers to be immediately opened, certainly not immediately opened to reporters, maybe to what they think of as scholars, but not reporters. And there was talk that maybe lawyers around town would go up there and see who had been arguing for them or against them on big cases in terms of the justice, which justice was for them and against them.

But those papers had very little of the personal stuff, very little of the internal thinking. There were a lot of letters and formal documents.
LAMB: What did Justice Marshall think of liberal Justice William O. Douglas?
WILLIAMS: Boy, they had a tough time, Brian. And much of this goes back to an incident that occurs in, I guess it's '72, '73 when the bombing of Cambodia is taking place. And Elizabeth Holtzman, who was then a congresswoman from New York, petitions that this bombing be stopped since we haven't declared war against Cambodia. Marshall is the justice who's in charge of that Second Circuit. And so when Holtzman makes this presentation, he denies it. He says, no, that's not for you to decide. That's for the Congress to decide as to whether or not this is an illegal operation. And Holtzman goes around him and goes to Douglas, and Douglas grants the stay.

Now for one Supreme Court justice to grant the stay independent of the others - this is during the summer; the justices are not here in Washington; they're all over the country vacationing - is unusual. When Marshall hears that Douglas has done this, he has a fit, and he gets together most of the justices by telephone, and they overturn what Douglas has done and removes the stay on the bombing effort so that President Nixon can go forward with his effort.

Now, Douglas felt that Marshall had offended him. And in fact, Douglas - I'm sorry. Yeah, Douglas, in his biography, later writes that he felt Marshall was put on the Court just because he was black, that they just needed some kind of black, moderate guy to stand in there, that he wasn't a brilliant lawyer, wasn't a smart mind. And so he insults Marshall in return.
LAMB: One of the things you brought with you today is - you know, we always talk about research. What is this? And where did you get it?
WILLIAMS: This comes from the Maryland State Archives. My thanks to Ed Popkins, who is the archivist there. This is Thurgood Marshall's signature on October 11th, 1933. He's just passed the bar exam, and here he is joining the legal fraternity in the state of Maryland and signing in as a lawyer in good standing. So that is Marshall's signature there, right after law school, before he starts private practice, the first time that he is, indeed, a lawyer in these United States.
LAMB: What do you think he would think of this book?
WILLIAMS: I think he would like it. You know, it's difficult because his wife did not participate. His wife and two sons chose not to....
LAMB: At all?
WILLIAMS: ...cooperate with me. And I think their fear was, you know, they don't know what's going to turn up. You know, drinking, womanizing. And they didn't want dirt thrown at the icon. And so I think they felt, in terms of their posture, it was better to say they had nothing to do with the book. Although as is obvious the case, Thurgood Marshall made a big impact on this book because of his decision to cooperate, making sure files were open for me, even telling me that those Library of Congress files were going to be opened and not burned after his death. For the longest time he had threatened to burn those files.
LAMB: You dedicate this to a lot of people. You've already mentioned your mother and father and The Washington Post and all. But then the four names on the bottom are - is it Delisse or Delisse [pronounced differently]?
WILLIAMS: Delisse.
LAMB: Antonio, Rae and Rafael. Who are they?
WILLIAMS: Delisse is my wife of 20 years.
LAMB: Where did you meet her?
WILLIAMS: I met her here in Washington, at a nightclub here. Started dancing and saw this pretty woman across the floor. And the two guys in front of me at the bar who had pointed her out were busy still getting their drinks. And I decided I'd go over and ask her to dance.

Antonio is our first son, who's starting his freshman year at Macalaester out in St. Paul, Minnesota. Rae's our daughter, Regan Williams. And she's a senior in high school. And Rafael is our nine year-old who you met the other day.
LAMB: I did. I did. And asked him whether he wanted to be a journalist. And what do you think? Any of these?
WILLIAMS: Much to my surprise, he said yes to you. You're a tough interviewer.
LAMB: Were you surprised that he said that he wanted to be a writer maybe?
WILLIAMS: Yeah. I really was. I mean I hear from that guy about hockey and being a goalie. But I don't hear too much about writing. And so when he said that to you, I was a little taken aback. I was surprised and pleased.
LAMB: In the experience of this book, what was the hardest you had to do, and what's your overall feeling about completing this book?
WILLIAMS: Well, the hardest thing in a sense was - you know, there're lots of people around Marshall, his clerks, his family, who were very protective of Marshall, to the point where they shut down. They felt like they didn't - they weren't comfortable in describing or talking about the whole man, flaws and all, as if they felt, you know, he was so special to them. But they know that there were critics out there, people who questioned his legal abilities, or people who said, well, maybe he wasn't radical enough, or he wasn't enough of a spokesman. They know about some of his opinions about people ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Malcolm X. And they thought we should be protective of him.

And so what you found, what I found as I'm going out there trying to do work is that a lot of the younger people, the clerks and the family, wanted to be so protective that they would have stopped this effort. And I'll give you another example of a difficulty was with the Legal Defense Fund that Marshall had headed for so many years. They literally shut down their files to me, in part because I had written a column defending Clarence Thomas's right to Senate hearings based on his beliefs and his legal record. If people thought he wasn't ready for the job, let's make that argument, but let's not talk about sexual comments he made to Anita Hill several years, ten years earlier. The Legal Defense Fund decided, no, we're not going to make these files available; we're not going to open them to you. I was able to get past that by going to other places. I went, you know, from Harvard to the Armistad Center down in New Orleans, to the Schaumberg Center in New York, Moreland-Spingarn here in Washington, research centers all over the United States and was able to get around that. But that was a difficulty, had to wait on the FBI files for years before they finally popped open and revealed much of that relationship between Marshall and J. Edgar Hoover. Those were the difficulties.

The joy in getting this done is this is a great book. I mean this is much better than I had thought was possible at the time that I started it.
LAMB: And you even went to see it come off the presses.
WILLIAMS: I went down. I took a tip from my friend, Brian Lamb, and went down to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to the plant of R.R. Donnelly where this book was printed and saw it coming off. And I took my mom with me, my 85 year-old mother. And it was emotional.
LAMB: Here's the book, Thurgood Marshall: An American Revolutionary by Juan Williams. Thank you very much for joining us.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Brian.


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