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Nearly 10 years after his death, the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall will be honored Jan. 7 at a ceremony unveiling a new postage stamp featuring his name and likeness. Officials including Chief Justice William Rehnquist are scheduled to attend the event at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington, D.C. Rehnquist, himself a stamp collector, will be making his first formal public appearance since his knee surgery in late November. Also on hand will be Marshall’s widow, Cecilia, other family members, longtime friend and O’Melveny & Myers senior counsel William Coleman Jr., and Judge Ralph Winter. A senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, Winter was Marshall’s first law clerk when Marshall was an appeals court judge. More than 100 million of the 37-cent Thurgood Marshall stamps will be printed, and the stamp will be made available on request at post offices around the country later this week. Marshall is only the third associate justice in history to be portrayed on a U.S. postage stamp. The others are Oliver Wendell Holmes and Hugo Black. Six chief justices have been honored on stamps: John Jay, John Marshall, William Howard Taft, Charles Evans Hughes, Harlan Fiske Stone, and Earl Warren. The stamp, part of the U.S. Postal Service’s black heritage series, displays a photograph by Abdon Ackad Sr. taken in 1967, soon after Marshall joined the Supreme Court. The stamp was designed by Richard Sheaff of Scottsdale, Ariz. Marshall died Jan. 24, 1993, at the age of 84, 15 months after retiring from the high court. He served as a justice from 1967 to 1991. Marshall’s oldest son, Thurgood Jr., says his family is pleased about the issuance of the stamp. “He would have wanted this honor to be viewed as a reminder of sorts about his colleagues and their clients” in the civil rights movement “and the courage they displayed,” says Marshall, a D.C. partner at Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman. “The stamp is a reminder of how far our country has come and how much we all have to remain vigilant at the most trying of times.” Postmaster General John Potter, who will dedicate the stamp at the ceremony, said in a statement, “Through the issuance of the Thurgood Marshall stamp we have created a lasting tribute to one of the pioneers of civil rights and social equality in our country.” Potter’s decision to authorize a Marshall stamp came on the unanimous recommendation of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, which advises the postmaster on the merits of stamp proposals. Committee Chairwoman Virginia Noelke was unavailable for comment, but one of the committee members, former Notre Dame basketball coach Richard “Digger” Phelps, is enthusiastic in explaining how the stamp came to be. “It was a layup for this guy,” says Phelps, now a sports commentator on ESPN. “What he did for people in the civil rights movement wasn’t a black issue, it was a human rights issue. He was one of the most respected people in the United States.” As soon as Justice Marshall died, Phelps says, “his name went on the calendar.” Stamps honoring individuals other than presidents may not be issued before the 10th anniversary of their deaths, Phelps explains. Once the 10th anniversary of Marshall’s death approached, there was no question that a stamp honoring him was in order, according to Phelps. Phelps describes himself as having been a “teen-aged Camelot Democrat” in the 1960s. “Back then, I thought racism would be gone soon. It’s still with us today,” Phelps says. Honoring the late justice with a stamp, he adds, can underscore Marshall’s importance as a role model for all.

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