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Donald Gaines Murray, Sr. (1914 - 1986) was the first African-American to enter the University of Maryland School of Law following the 1890 effort to prevent African-Americans from attending the school. Murray first sought admission to the University of Maryland School of Law on January 24, 1935, but his application was rejected based on race and his subsequent appeal to the Board of Regents of the university was unsuccessful. Upon this second rejection Murray began to work with lawyers at Washington D.C.'s Howard University to consider possible legal action. According to Juan Williams writing in his 1998 work Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary when Thurgood Marshall learned that some other lawyers were considering filing a suit against the State of Maryland and the University:
he [Marshall] got upset and wrote to [Charles Hamilton] Houston that he wanted to be first to file suit. He could not bear to allow any other lawyer to take the lead on this case.
By the time the case reached court, Murray was represented by Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall, with help from Baltimore based attorney Nicholas Gosnell. Marshall argued the organization's policy of racial segregation was unconstitutional and argued in principle that "since the State of Maryland had not provided a comparable law school for blacks that Murray should be allowed to attend the white university." and stated " What's at stake here is more than the rights of my client. It's the moral commitment stated in our country's creed."
Judge Eugene O'Dunne ordered Raymond A. Pearson, president of the university, to admit Murray to the University of Maryland Law School. The ruling was appealed to Maryland's highest court, the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower courts' rulings on January 15, 1936.
Murray, who eventually graduated in 1938, went on to practice law in Baltimore with the firm of Douglass, Perkins and Murray. He was involved in several subsequent cases which would lead to integration of other professional schools at the University of Maryland.
Murray was a member of the Baltimore Urban League, American Civil Liberties Union and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. He retired in the early 1970s and died at the age of 72. [Murray Obituary]
The Murray case was an involved, far-reaching effort and has been extensively studied by both historians and lawyers. It played an important role in the breaking down of barriers to education at other University of Maryland Schools and helped Thurgood Marshall to develop the arguments that would come to the fore in the Brown v. Board of Education. This site is intended to serve as a starting point for researchers interested in the subject but is not comprehensive.
In addition to the electronic resources detailed in this guide, additional archival material may be located microfiche in the Papers of the NAACP. Part 3, The Campaign for Educational Equality [series A & B]. Please see our microfiche guide for more details.