Matthew S. Gunby  /  AP
Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. speaks during a March 28 meeting to rally support for renaming Baltimore-Washington International Airport after Thurgood Marshall, first African American justice on the Supreme Court. Maryland's governor signed a bill Thursday confirming the change.
updated 5/11/2005 8:34:42 PM ET 2005-05-12T00:34:42

The governor signed a bill Tuesday renaming Baltimore-Washington International Airport for Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Beginning Oct. 1, the airport will be known as Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich signed the bill as civil rights leaders and lawmakers looked on.

“Our purpose is to honor a great mind who did the most to end legal segregation in America,” said state Delegate Emmett Burns, a Baptist minister who introduced the bill.

Before rising to the nation’s highest court in 1967, Marshall, a native of Baltimore, worked as a civil rights attorney and successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that struck down school segregation. He also was a federal judge and U.S. solicitor general. He died in 1993.

Marshall was denied admission to the University of Maryland because he was black and went to Howard University in Washington instead.

Maryland now follows other states that recently have named major airports after prominent black Americans. Atlanta, New Orleans and Jackson, Miss., have renamed their airports for Maynard Jackson, Louis Armstrong and Medgar Evers, respectively.

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