As expected, when he became a member of the court he joined the group which voted in civil liberties cases with then-Chief Justice Warren. His opinions were moderate in tone, in keeping with his status as a junior justice and his own easy-going manner.
He was, of course, in the majority of cases advancing civil rights -- for teachers, union members, political candidates, voters and families wanting to use a swimming pool.
But on these matters he did not speak for the court. The chief justice, who assigns opinions, turned to other justices for pronouncements on race.
Marshall did not establish himself on the court until the 1968-69 term, because his earlier role as solicitor general obliged him to disqualify himself from more than 60 cases that came up during his first term.
On the day in 1969 when Burger was sworn in as chief justice, with such highly placed court critics as President Nixon and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in the crowd, Marshall read the court's ruling that federal law bars police from walking into a suspect's apartment without announcing themselves -- even if the door is open.
Perhaps his best-remembered opinion struck down a Georgia law under which a man was punished for having obscene films which police had found in a desk drawer in his bedroom.
'If the First Amendment means anything it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch,' Marshall said in the 1969 ruling.
In another important free speech case, decided in 1968, Marshall strengthened labor union rights by holding that peaceful picketing of a store in a shopping center does not violate the property rights of the owner.
He commanded a 5-4 majority in a 1987 ruling which held that a clerk typist in a Texas constable's office was illegally fired for expressing pleasure over John Hinckley's 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan. The remark was protected by the First Amendment, he said.
He also championed equality for women, garnering enough votes among the splintered court to rule in 1983 that employers must contribute the same amount of money and provide the same health and retirement benefits for men and women.
In 1987, Marshall once again aided women in the workplace with his ruling that states may require employers to grant disability leave to pregnant workers and to reinstate them when they return to work. He said such laws would 'allow women, as well as men, to have families without losing their jobs.'
By the early 1980s, Marshall found himself somewhat isolated from the court majority. In the 1982-83 term, for instance, he dissented from the majority holdings nearly one-third of the time. He authored 17 full- scale dissents and joined numerous others, especially in the criminal area.
He receivedfew assignments to write the court's most sweeping opinions, and found himself authoring election, labor and business cases.
He broke legal ground for the business community by holding that corporate mergers accomplished through exchanges of stock may be attacked through the fraud provisions of the Securities and Exchange Act. The decision also enlarged the power of the Securities and Exchange Commission over insurance companies.
In 1986, Marshall was given the chance to lead the court on an issue dear to his heart -- the death penalty. Commanding a 5-4 majority, Marshall wrote that executing the insane violates the Eighth Amendment, calling the practice 'the barbarity of exacting mindless vengeance.'
Marshall was born July 2, 1908, in Baltimore. His father was William Canfield Marshall, first a Pullman car steward, then a waiter and steward at the exclusive Gibson Island Club on Chesapeake Bay. His mother was a teacher in Baltimore's segregated schools.
'My father,' Marshall would recall, 'never told me to become a lawyer. But he turned me into one by teaching me to argue, to prove every statement I made, and by challenging my logic on every point.'
His great-grandfather was brought from Africa as a slave to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Marshall used to say the man came from 'the toughest part of the Congo,' although more 'genteel' descendants would like to think he came 'from the cultured tribes in Sierra Leone.'
Young Thurgood grew up in reasonably comfortable circumstances in Baltimore. He graduated with honors in 1930 from Lincoln University, Lincoln Union, Pa., where he had started with the idea of becoming a dentist.
Refused admittance to the University of Maryland Law School because of his race, he took his law courses at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Later he successfully sued to compel Maryland to admit blacks. His bust now is on display at the school's law library.
After a stint of private practice which included numerous nonpaying clients, he took a $2,400-a-year job with the NAACP in New York in 1936. That started him on his civil rights career.
Marshall's first wife, Vivian Burey Marshall, died of cancer in 1955. He then married Hawaiian-born Cecelia Suyat, whom he met when she worked in the NAACP office. They had two sons, Thurgood Jr., and John William.
Marshall was an Episcopalian and a 33rd degree Mason.