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Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America
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Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  940 ratings  ·  145 reviews
Thurgood Marshall brought down the separate-but-equal doctrine, integrated schools, and not only fought for human rights and human dignity but also made them impossible to deny in the courts and in the streets. In this stunning new biography, award-winning author Wil Haygood surpasses the emotional impact of his inspiring best seller The Butler to detail the life and caree ...more
Hardcover, First Edition (U.S.), 416 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (first published September 2015)
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3.87  · 
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 ·  940 ratings  ·  145 reviews

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David Baldacci
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As a former lawyer, books on famous attorneys have always captured my interest. The Brethren was a classic, vastly entertaining study of the interior workings of the Supreme Court. Now, with Will Haygood's Showdown, we find ourselves immersed in the nomination process of Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court. There was much that enthralled me about this book, including Marshall’s early years and his mentorship under Charlie Houston. But most compelling for me was the relationship between L ...more
Capsule biography of the first African-American Supreme Court justice, which centers around the then-unusual step of a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1967.

Each day of the proceedings has its own chapter, and is preceded by chapters on related historical events. All of these are interesting, but why they were included is not immediately relevant - e.g. the nomination of Justice Brandeis in 1916 and the Houston riots of 1917. One of the much better examples is the discussion of th
“Showdown” is not a standard biography. Haygood frames the book through the confirmation fight of Thurgood Marshall. The author provides flashbacks to provide more information of the life of Thurgood Marshall and the various Senators of the Justice Committee. The suspense build and build as Marshal faced off against a wolf pack of Southern Senators who were determined to block his nomination to the Supreme Court in July 1967. President Johnson let these white supremacist senators know he would j ...more
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
This was a frustrating book. Too much of it was either confirmation testimony offered in direct quotes, with the author breaking in every few exchanges to remind us how exciting we should find it, or the kind of "all the South was outraged" and "all African-Americans felt a swell of pride" kind of history writing that I find lazy and irritating. It does offer an interesting cross-section of where Washington was on race in the 60s, but in a way that seemed more geared toward making legends of rea ...more
Dec 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
This is a really good look at the confirmation process of Thurgood Marshall. Haygood details the players that helped and hindered Marshall's confirmation. It was clear that LBJ was Marshall's champion and may have been the sole reason Marshall made it to the high court. There were those that did their best to keep Marshall from donning the big black robe. Dixiecrat senators McClellan, Ervin, and Thurmond, spearheaded by Senator James Eastland did their best to break down Marshall during the conf ...more
Oct 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
This one is tough. Definitely wanted to read about Marshall and getting his nomination through. The author defined my problem with the book in the second line of his "Acknowledgements". "My challenge as a biographer was finding the proper Marshall story that would satisfy my nonlinear narrative hunger". While I don't doubt the accuracy of the information or the dedication of the author, I found the "nonlinear narrative" extremely hard to read. I could never tell quite where we were as we jumped ...more
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
After the most recent Supreme Court nominating debacle, I needed a feel good story to cleanse the palate as it were. "Showdown" definitely did the trick. Lyndon Johnson was a man with plenty of flaws but lack of courage wasn't one of them. The book does a good job of showing not just the hearing process but also serves as a biography of Marshall up to the time he joined the Court. If you need a liberal pick me up, this is the book for you.
Grady McCallie
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: black-america
The core story of Thurgood Marshall's 1967 nomination to the US Supreme Court, and his confirmation by the US Senate, is not that long. So, author Wil Haygood breaks it up with chapter-long digressions to recount the lives of key figures in the drama: Marshall himself, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, racist Senators James Eastland, John McClellan, Sam Ervin, and Strom Thurmond, and others. Normally, this kind of structure becomes tedious, but here it works really well, and the confirmation figh ...more
Paul Womack
Sep 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this after reading "The Devil in the Grove" and will follow over the next few weeks with several other volumes in which Thurgood Marshall plays a crucial role. What a heroic figure, who in some respects fell into the historical context that propelled him into a greatness lesser men might have avoided. Passionate, courageous, intellectually forceful, we are better as a people for his service. The citations from the Senate transcripts reveal how judicial philosophy could be used to sustain ...more
Dec 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Changed? The biography of Justice Marshall moved along fairly well before bogging down 2/3 through. Instead of dealing with his victories and landmark decisions, the author chose to focus too much on squabbles leading up to his confirmation. 6 of 10 stars
Oct 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was five years old when I started school at Morrison Annex in August 1971, not turning six until mid-September. Here is the history of the school:

The site of the “Morrison Annex” building in the Goldenview community was home to the second African American School “Calhoun Elementary” during segregation. It was preceded by a one-room school house that stood near the Goldenview Baptist Church. The current annex building was built by Pickens County School district in the 1940s to serve the needs o
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I read Showdown while Donald Trump's incoming cabinet picks were undergoing confirmation questioning in the Senate in Jan 2017. In that context, I was absolutely astounded how in 1967 such an eminently qualified legal scholar was subjected to such openly racist vitriol from eminent U.S. Senators, almost threatening to derail his confirmation - and how in 2017, absolutely unqualified clowns, crooks, and imbeciles can sail cleanly into any elected or appointed position they choose, depending on wh ...more
Frances Levy
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Sadly, many of the atrocities and indignities heaped upon black people are not a thing of the past. But Thurgood Marshall probably did more than anyone else to expiate them, winning 29 of 34 cases before the Supreme Court. Then he was nominated to the Court, and the indignities were aimed directly at him. What he had to endure and how he overcame the obstacles to the liberty of his people and to his own nomination makes for a fascinating, page-turning account.
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Thoughts coming shortly
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The book weaves so much history and biography through the confirmation hearing of Thurgood Marshall.
Bob Peru
Sep 25, 2015 rated it liked it
some interesting but at times pointless digressions. this book needed tighter editing.
Andy Miller
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Showdown" alternates chapters describing the bruising confirmation fight after Thurgood Marshall was nominated to the Supreme Court with chapters detailing Marshall's pre-Supreme Court life. The chapters describing the confirmation fight were spell binding, I found myself sometimes tempted to rush through intervening chapters on Marshall's life to get to the next chapter on the confirmation battle.
The confirmation battle occurred mainly in the Judiciary hearings chaired by Mississippi Senator
Barry Sierer
Aug 27, 2016 rated it liked it
I’m torn by this book. Wil Haygood is a gifted writer who tells a fascinating story. Haygood’s prose is well chosen, flows easily, and is informative. This a terrific story, but I’m only giving it three stars for two reasons.

The first is that a lot of the book’s content is a huge diversion from the central story, which is the confirmation hearings for Thurgood Marshal’s appointment to the US Supreme Court. The book is full of profiles and stories of the actors in Marshall’s life, but many of the
Erin Reilly-Sanders
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
This one of the most fascinating books I've read in a while. Although the writing is a bit dry and the frame of the confirmation hearings is typically lost among all the information, this is definitely worth reading. The content covered in the book ranges from Marshall's early cases (Brown vs Board of Ed, Port Chicago 50, etc.) to his NAACP work including working for voting rights and is filled with connections to US history as well as current socio-cultural issues that really should not be miss ...more
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I appreciated Haywood's recounting of the Marshall nomination, in which he names players and events that will, unfortunately, be familiar today. As a student of history, and born after Marshall was appointed and confirmed to the Supreme Court, tracing much of the language used around the Marshall nomination to discussions of civil society and race today was startling, chilling, and enlightening. The entire story is a lesson in what changes Marshall fought for and helped usher in, his tremendous ...more
John DiConsiglio
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016-2017, 2016
The story of Thurgood Marshall, civil rights giant & first black Supreme Court Justice, & LBJ, the southern president who appointed him, should be a titanic historical yarn with two outsized personalities battling a judicial committee of foaming-at-the-mouth racists. But we’ll have to wait for Robert Caro to write it. This is a serviceable but uninspiring substitute. Marshall’s confirmation hearing was packed with drama; the chair called blacks an “inferior race”—on the Senate floor! The ...more
Aug 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
Simply put, just not a good book. For great stretches of the book, the main subject of the material isn't even mentioned, then to end the segment, a weak paragraph or two is offered to try and tie the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall to the previous pages. It rarely works.

What's more, Haygood negates his own thesis with his final chapters. As he glides over the conservative swing of the court in the Reagan-Bush years, it becomes clear that Marshall's career on the court DID NOT change America.
Glen Kizer
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book. Biographies can be tough for me because I usually already know a lot about the subject of each biography. But in this book, Wil Haygood did a great job of keeping my interest even though I knew a lot about Justice Marshall before starting the book. Also, if you saw the movie "Marshall" you saw a young Thurgood Marshall defend an innocent man. This biography is about his life but it concentrates a good deal on the politically dangerous move to nominate a Black man to the US Supreme Co ...more
Richard Levine
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
Thurgood Marshall was an American hero; a great lawyer who did as much as anyone to advance the cause of equal rights under law for black people; and the first black Supreme Court justice. Unfortunately, this book, which is framed around the confirmation battle in the U.S. Senate when LBJ nominated Marshall to the Court in 1967, doesn't do justice to the Justice.

Author Haygood uses lots of breathless prose to try to build up the tremendous "drama" about Marshall's nomination and the subsequent
Melody Riggs
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one took me awhile to read, but not because it was slow or boring. It was incredibly well researched, and I found myself putting the book down and then getting lost down the rabbit hole of the internet looking up more information about people and events Haygood writes about. I had the opportunity to hear Haygood speak in early January and am looking forward to his forthcoming book.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a real eye opener. I didn't realize what Thurgood Marshall had to go through to become the first black Supreme Court justice. It was not an easy road at all. I also have a new interest in LBJ. lol
Byron Edgington
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Here we have a time capsule into the various elements of America's past, our painful, challenging story of race and its power in our daily lives. Just as Barack Obama's election to the presidency did, the elevation of Thurgood Marshall to a seat on the nation's most powerful judicial bench elicited the deepest fears—and the highest affirmations of this land. When President Johnson submitted Judge Marshall's name for consideration, all the prejudice, hatred, anxiety—and ultimately the best of all ...more
Nicholas Nagykery
I knew very little about Thurgood Marshall before reading this book, but I developed tremendous admiration for this American hero. Showdown is an in-depth review of the confirmation hearings of Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice. It weaves in the history of the civil rights movement and the brutal prejudice of many white southerners from the plantation holders to the police force to government officials. I also never knew how much President LBJ did for civil rights in this ...more
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book tells an important story in the history of the movement toward civil rights for African Americans the US. The focus is the confirmation hearings. Reading it in the early days of the Trump administration, during the controversies over recent appointments, it was useful to learn how the process has changed over time. Before Marshall, very few nominations even had congressional hearings. (Louis Brandeis being one that did.) In 1967 Johnson had decided to appoint a Black attorney to the co ...more
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wil Haygood's book "Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America" provides a good summary of Thurgood Marshall's life, and the unfortunate discrimination he faced and fought against during his life. The story of how a handful of Southern Senators conspired to prevent him from being placed on the Supreme Court because of their segregationist views and upbringing was a sad look back at the Jim Crow era. For the young people of our Country who didn't experience ...more
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Play Book Tag: Showdown, by Will Haygood; 5 Stars 1 11 Jul 09, 2017 01:26PM  

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