Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. He served from 1967 until 1991.
Prior to that, he was known for having won 29 of the 32 cases he’d argued argued before the Supreme Court. Most were civil rights cases, including the famous Brown v. Board of Education case that ended legal segregation in public schools in 1954.
The year he died, the name Thurgood debuted on the U.S. baby name charts:
So how did Thurgood Marshall get his unusual first name?
It was passed down from his paternal grandfather, who apparently went by either of two names: Thorneygood and Thoroughgood.
The elder Thoroughgood/Thorneygood served in the U.S. Army, and he didn’t know which name to use when he enlisted, so he used both. And he ended up getting two sets of retirement checks because of it.
Thurgood Marshall told TIME: “I was named Thoroughgood after him but by the time I was in the second grade, I got tired of spelling all that and shortened it.”
His maternal grandfather also had a distinctive name: Isaiah Olive Branch Williams. Isaiah and his wife Mary had six children, all with fascinating names — several inspired by Isaiah’s travels abroad with the U.S. merchant marine.
Avonia Delicia – first name after Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon
Avon Nyanza – first name also after Stratford-upon-Avon
Denmedia Marketa – after the family’s grocery store, located on Baltimore’s Denmead Street
Norma Arica – after the opera Norma and the place where Isaiah first heard it, the Chilean port city of Arica
Fearless Mentor – because, according to Isaiah:
Most kids don’t open their eyes until they’re at least a few hours old. This one looked me straight in the eye as soon as I came in. He’s a fearless little fellow and Fearless will be his name.
Ravine Silestria – after a ravine in the Bulgarian/Romanian port city of Silistra
Norma was Thurgood Marshall’s mother. He called Fearless and Denmedia “Uncle Fee” and “Aunt Medi.”
“Fearless Williams in the News.” Baltimore and Ohio Magazine Sept. 1951: 39.
Which of these name combinations is your favorite?
I think I’d have to go with Married Young from the first + last list.
[P.S. For some of the above, I assumed the state where the person was issued a social security number was also the birth-state. I realize now that this isn’t always the case. Sorry about that. If you’ve found a mistake, feel free to correct me in the comments.]
The names below are “one-hit wonder” names that ranked among the 1,000 most popular U.S. baby names only once — sometime during the 1880s.
This list is much longer than the 1940s and 1950s lists, but it’s also probably a lot less reliable. Why? Because the SSA‘s baby name data for the late 1800s and early 1900s is pretty skewed. As a result, a lot of random names (and misspellings) managed to rank among the statistical “top 1,000” during this period.