As part of its celebration of Black History Month, Nichols Kaster wishes to highlight and recognize two monumental trailblazers in our legal community, Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court, and Associate Justice Alan Page of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Both men made history upon joining the high courts, becoming the first Black justice ever to serve on either bench.
A Maryland native, Justice Thurgood Marshall graduated from Lincoln University – a historically Black university in Pennsylvania – before attending Howard University for law school and graduating in 1933. The following year, Justice Marshall began his 25-year affiliation with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”) when he represented the organization in Murray v. Pearson, a case challenging racial segregation at the University of Maryland Law School. Justice Marshall won the case, and joined the NAACP’s national legal staff in 1936, becoming its chief legal counsel in 1940. Justice Marshall litigated numerous monumental cases before the Supreme Court, including Brown v. Board of Education in 1952 and again in 1953. Justice Marshall won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.
Justice Marshall joined the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1961, and then became the United States’ first Black solicitor general in 1964. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Justice Marshall to the Supreme Court as the first Black justice. While serving on the High Court, Justice Marshall was deeply and openly committed to universal civil rights and civil liberties. Justice Marshall’s voice and passion remained strong until he retired from the Court in 1991 due to failing health. Justice Marshall died on January 24, 1993. His Bible was used by Vice President Kamala Harris when she was sworn in as Vice President of the United States in January 2021.
As attorneys committed to the protection of civil rights for all individuals, we are forever grateful for and indebted to Justice Thurgood Marshall for his work to protect all people from discrimination and unlawful treatment.
Justice Alan Page was born in Canton, Ohio, and went on to play college football at the University of Notre Dame. In 1967, Justice Page was drafted to the Minnesota Vikings, where he played for 11 seasons. While playing for the Vikings, Justice Page attended the University of Minnesota Law School and earned his J.D. in 1978. After graduating, Justice Page worked at Lindquist and Vennum from 1979 to 1984 while finishing his football career with the Chicago Bears. Justice Page then served as Special Assistant Attorney General in the Employment Law Division, and then as Assistant Attorney General, until his election to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1992. Upon winning his election, Justice Page became the first Black justice to serve on the Court. Justice Page served on the Court until 2015, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. Justice Page’s tenure on the Supreme Court is filled with numerous notable opinions and dissents.
Apart from being an accomplished jurist, Justice Page is also deeply committed to his community. Justice Page served on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Urban League, and as a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota. He and his wife then founded the Page Education Fund in 1988 to encourage Minnesota students of color to pursue higher education. Justice Page has also authored four children’s books, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.
Nichols Kaster thanks Justice Page for his dedicated legal service and continued commitment to all Minnesotans.