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Cecilia Marshall, former NAACP legal secretary
Press Statement November 23, 2022

NAACP Mourns the Passing of Cecilia Marshall, Former NAACP Legal Secretary

Cecilia Marshall, former NAACP legal secretary

The NAACP mourns alongside the loved ones of Cecilia Marshall, who passed away on Tuesday, November 22 at the age of 94. Marshall, the wife of the late Supreme Court Justice and civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall, was a civil rights activist, historian, and a former legal secretary for the NAACP.

Marshall was born Cecilia Suyat in Hawaii on July 20, 1928, to Filipino parents. She moved from Hawaii to New York in 1948 and began working at the NAACP as a legal secretary. During her time with the Association, she worked on a variety of cases including the Groveland Four case and the landmark Brown v. Board of Education. It was at the Association that she met and ultimately married Justice Marshall in 1955 and during their wedding ceremony was given away by NAACP leader Roy Wilkins. 

In a 2013 interview, Marshall was asked about her impression of race growing up in Hawaii. "I really didn't have any idea at all, because I went to school with different nationalities, Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, and I think there was only one Negro family in the whole section where I was," she said. She described her move to New York as the moment she learned about "the racial problem." 

"I remember segregation very well. You couldn't go to different places. You couldn't sit in any place. I just wish Thurgood were here… to see his work and the work of his lawyers."

We remember Marshall as a staunch advocate for civil rights, who was committed to safeguarding the reputation and legacy of her late husband.

Rest in Power.