MarshallCommentary by Pete du Pont
December 27, 1996
Host intro: Recent revelations that the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall may have been an FBI informant have been met with suspicion. But Pete du Pont of the National Center for Policy Analysis says they're not that hard to believe.
Some of his admirers have bristled at the suggestion that Thurgood Marshall, as an attorney for the NAACP, covertly conferred with the FBI.
Harvard law professor and one-time Marshall law clerk Randall Kennedy has no trouble believing it. After reading his article in my on-line magazine, neither do i.
Of course, it's possible the files are inaccurate or incomplete. But Kennedy says Marshall's beliefs and the mood of the times both legitimate the story.
In the 1950s, Marshall was reportedly feeding the FBI information on potential Communist infiltration of the civil rights movement. Kennedy says this was partly for self-protection: Marshall didn't want the movement damaged by presumed Communist affiliations. Groups like the NAACP and the ACLU even banned Communists.
Moreover, Marshall was a moderate who was disgusted by the willingness of the Communists to exploit the oppression of blacks for their own purposes. He detested their violent rhetoric and militancy. And he once told Kennedy, though not referring to himself, that he saw nothing wrong with informing on "Commies."
Rather than tarnishing Thurgood Marshall's name, the story, if true, presents him as a shrewd, careful politician, and even a bit of a cold warrior.
Those are my ideas. And at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you tomorrow.
Host outro: Coming up Monday, Pete du Pont celebrates New Year's.