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The last time I saw Marshall

My colleague Brendan Kearney’s article today on a play about Thurgood Marshall, being staged by Maryland judges, reminded me of the last time I saw the nation’s first black Supreme Court justice.

It was June 27, 1991, in the court’s ceremonial East Conference Room. Marshall, who had recently announced his retirement from the high court, was holding a farewell news conference.

The tone of the session was set with Marshall’s response to the first question from the press. “How do you feel?” the reporter asked, amid speculation that the justice was stepping down because of his health.

“With my hands,” Marshall replied without skipping a beat.

He later answered the reporter’s question more directly: “I’m getting old and falling apart.”

Marshall died 19 months later at age 84.