Gibson's Stories Highlight Black History Month Celebration
The first time Larry Gibson met Thurgood Marshall, it was nearly midnight and the Supreme Court justice came to the door of his Falls Church, Va., home in his bathrobe. “He said, ‘This had better be a criminal matter,’” Gibson recalled with a smile. “I replied, ‘No, Mr. Justice, it is not. But it is about Baltimore.’ He invited us in. We dealt with the legal matter in maybe 10 minutes. But we did not leave his house until after 2 a.m., as Thurgood Marshall entertained us with one story after another about his days in Baltimore.”
This was just one of the stories Gibson, LLB, professor at the University of Maryland (UM) Francis King Carey School of Law, shared from his new book as keynote speaker for the University’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month commemoration on Feb. 7.
Gibson’s book, Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice, is more about the influences that shaped Marshall than about his accomplishments. “There were two main characters, a person and a place,” Gibson said. “The person was Thurgood Marshall and the place was Baltimore, Maryland. I’ve tried to convey how all this helped shape the man who then helped shape the nation.”
Gibson, who said he wrote the book at the urging of former law school Dean Karen Rothenberg, JD, MPA, “to set the record straight,” dispelled some false stories about Marshall. “He was a much more serious student than some have suggested,” Gibson said. “He never contemplated being a dentist. He did not have repeated disciplinary problems. He did not apply to the University of Maryland School of Law, although he would have been rejected [due to segregation laws] had he applied.”
The Black History Month program, and the viewing a week later of the documentary film Walter P. Carter: Champion for Change, celebrated the University’s progress regarding diversity. University President Jay A. Perman, MD, moderated the event and said, “We are here to celebrate the work of Dr. King, and to honor all who work for a free and just society.”
Among the honorees were an individual and a group who received MLK Diversity Recognition Awards.
Gregory Carey, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and director of student summer research and community outreach in the Office of Student Research at the School of Medicine, was given the Outstanding UM Faculty/Staff Award.
A passionate mentor to minority students and postdoctoral fellows at the University for close to a decade, Carey recently has seen several immigrants and African-Americans of high school age go on to pursue higher degrees after being mentored in his laboratory in the Center for Vascular and Inflammatory Diseases. Carey met some of these students during his visits to local schools to encourage science and health careers.
Asked about the award, Carey, who was joined by his wife, Indira Carey, PhD, said, “It’s surreal. My feet haven’t touched the ground yet.”
The Outstanding Student Group Award went to the University’s Pride Alliance, which promotes a more inclusive campus environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning students while mobilizing support for equality throughout Maryland.
Created by the School of Social Work’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Allies Union through partnerships with other schools at the University, the Pride Alliance was praised by Perman. “This group devoted more than 1,000 hours advocating for Question 6, Maryland’s civil marriage equity law that passed in November,” Perman said. “And these are students! With their demanding schedules and their coursework, to me this is especially impressive.”
The Golden Voices of Booker T. Washington Middle School for the Arts, a neighbor of UM’s whose alumni include Gibson, performed and drew a standing ovation. Their first song, “Freedom Is Coming,” began with Keontay Brown singing alone on the stage. Soon his voice, joined by those of eight classmates, spread around the auditorium. The students, led by Ronald McFadden, converged on the stage, where they also performed “Elijah Rock,” and “City Called Heaven.” They closed the program by leading “We Shall Overcome.”