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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Hylan Lewis, January 13, 1991. Interview A-0361. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Description of Thurgood Marshall

Lewis describes Thurgood Marshall in this excerpt. Marshall stepped easily between the formal and informal, intellectual and social worlds.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Hylan Lewis, January 13, 1991. Interview A-0361. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JOHN EGERTON:
Two other people I would like to get you to give me a personal perspective on. First, Thurgood Marshall.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Extraordinary man. I don't know him well but I know him in a secondhand and in a very small sense. I have great respect. Rough hewn, combative, shrewd, forceful, courageous man with good street smarts who combines street smarts with . . . . who could play poker and toss off a couple of beers with the boys and joke but at the same time never lose sight of the essential and have an intellectual and gut sense of what democracy, freedom and equality mean.Mays would speak it intellectually but he didn't have quite the same sense . . . . although Mays had a lot of courage, too. I knew Mays at Chicago and at Howard and Mays and I did some—I had forgotten about this—Mays did have that important streak of being on the edge. I remember he and I went together as young instructors and we made some efforts to get George Washington University to open up ,inaudible.Most of the ones you are talking about had this activist edge to them. I think if Mays had an activist edge it was a different kind of edge than Charles Johnson had. Mays inaudible and positioning tinge which Charles never has had. I think that's very important.
JOHN EGERTON:
Johnson was more of a diplomat behind the scenes. The man who put together coalitions and all.
HYLAN LEWIS:
A man who had no design for office as such, but who had design for behind the scenes power and for influence both in terms of the essay as well as the scholarly production of time. Johnson worked on a battle field which is quite different than Mays did. Mays didn't have the skills of Johnson. Johnson had skills . . . .