- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2005

A Maryland delegate has introduced legislation that would rename Baltimore-Washington International Airport after Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who died in 1993.

“Thurgood Marshall is the most prominent African-American from Baltimore,” said Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., Baltimore County Democrat. “He has a history of NAACP activism, which opened the doors of education in 1954 and the doors of opportunity for all African-Americans and all people of color.”

Mr. Burns’ bill — which would rename the facility Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport — enjoys bipartisan support in the House of Delegates.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said he is receptive to the idea of renaming BWI, noting that a statue of the Supreme Court’s first black justice stands in Lawyers Mall in front of the State House.

“Obviously, Thurgood Marshall is a tremendous star not only in the state of Maryland but in the nation,” said Mr. Busch, Anne Arundel County Democrat. “If we are going to name an airport, then I think certainly one of the names that should be considered certainly would be Thurgood Marshall.”

House Minority Whip Anthony J. O’Donnell has co-sponsored the bill, citing his respect for Justice Marshall.

“Obviously, he made great contributions to civil rights, to the education of all of our children and great contributions to the constitutional body of knowledge,” said Mr. O’Donnell, a Republican who represents Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.

“Thurgood Marshall was a tremendous leader and uniter of people in the United States, and we need more unity now than ever,” said Delegate Peter Franchot, Montgomery County Democrat and bill co-sponsor.

A Senate version of the bill has not been introduced this session.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. yesterday said changing BWI’s name should be carefully considered.

“Honoring Thurgood Marshall is an extremely laudable goal,” said Mr. Miller, Prince George’s County Democrat. “But the name BWI makes a statement in terms of bringing two cities together, and it’s a marketing tool which enhances business for the state of Maryland.

“It is a bill that will certainly be given careful consideration, but it should be contemplated in terms of economic development from the state,” Mr. Miller said. “But I would certainly think he would be at the top of the list.”

The Ehrlich administration declined to comment.

Mr. Burns said renaming the airport would give Justice Marshall “international recognition. It gives him the national and international recognition that he deserves.”

Blacks “are just now beginning to catch up with the majority race in terms of symbols and shrines,” said Mr. Burns, a member of the Legislative Black Caucus. “African-Americans have produced great contributions to this country, and they need to be recognized in ways that they have not been in the past. Now is the time to do it.”

The bill, which has more than 35 sponsors, has been referred to the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

As a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Justice Marshall argued the Brown v. Board of Education (of Topeka, Kan.) case before the high court in 1954. The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling outlawed segregation in public schools.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Mr. Marshall as U.S. solicitor general, then named him to the Supreme Court in 1967.

Justice Marshall retired from the court in 1991. A Baltimore native, he died in Bethesda at 84 — exactly 12 years ago yesterday.

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