Many lawyers worked with the legendary Thurgood Marshall to overturn the Supreme Court's infamous separate but equal doctrine, which had permitted racial segregation in schools and public accommodations. But while most Marylanders are aware of Marshall's contribution, few recognize the name of his colleague, William I. Gosnell.
At that time, Gosnell was one of only 32 black lawyers in the state of Maryland. In fact, due to the state's racial segregation policy, both he and Marshall had received scholarships to attend out- of-state law schools. They were denied entry to the University of Maryland because of their skin color. While Marshall went on to win 28 of 31 cases before the Supreme Court, Gosnell remained in Baltimore and developed a successful law practice. He died in March 1978.
In the recently published biography, "Thurgood Marshall, American Revolutionary," author Juan Williams noted that Gosnell spent many hours with Marshall preparing the Murray case. But Gosnell's efforts actually preceded Marshall's involvement. Gosnell introduced Donald Murray, a well-qualified Amherst College graduate, to Marshall as a potential plaintiff. Also, Gosnell encouraged the youth to challenge the segregation policy.
F. Michael Higginbotham & José F. Anderson, Drum Majors for Justice, The Baltimore Sun, February 18, 1999