The opening of The Wharf has brought visitors from near and far. One such visitor was Mrs. Thurgood “Cissy” Marshall, who recently enjoyed a brief stroll along the Southwest waterfront after attending services at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church. Marshall is a longtime, active St. Augustine’s parishioner.
Thelma D. Jones, a friend, intended to surprise Marshall by showing her the plaque on the waterfront that honors Justice Thurgood Marshall. However, they were unable to locate the Marshall plaque, which Jones had encountered during The Wharf’s grand opening in October. Challenged by the dreary weather and concerned about overtaxing Marshall, Jones sought the assistance of The Wharf’s security chief, Diane Groomes.
Groomes, honored to be in Marshall’s presence, said: “What an honor to meet the widow of such a historic icon from Southwest; the visit from Mrs. Marshall was such a treat for us at the District Wharf.” Groomes then led Marshall and Jones to the beautiful bronze plaque, which measures 12 inches by 12 inches. Embedded in the walkway near Del Mar and Kaliwa, the plaque citing says “Thurgood Marshall” in bold letters separated by a line with an inscription that says in smaller letters: “During his United States Supreme Court tenure, Thurgood Marshall resided in Southwest near the waterfront. He was the court’s first African American justice and the 96th person to hold this title.”
Amazed at seeing the plaque, Marshall jubilantly asked: “Who did this? Thelma did you arrange this?” Jones quickly admitted that she wasn’t responsible for the plaque but assured Marshall that she continues to do her part in making certain that the people of Southwest—newcomers and longtime residents—are aware of Justice Marshall’s legacy.
Still quite surprised at seeing the plaque, Marshall said to Groomes: “Although words cannot adequately express my feeling and deep appreciation, please know that I shall be forever grateful to everyone in our Southwest community for remembering Thurgood with a plague and beautiful inscription embedded on the sidewalk of our newly restored Southwest waterfront. Again, my deepest appreciation and love.”
Justice Marshall and his family lived in Southwest for more than four years at Capitol Park IV Condominium on 64 G St. SW, where a commemorative plaque exists, and at Carrollsburg Condominium on 4th St. Marshall’s former G St. residence is also near a call box that was installed in his honor by the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly and St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in 2009.
The excitement of Marshall’s historic visit drew a host of Wharf employees and visitors who were delighted to be in her presence.
While eagerly posing for pictures with Marshall, the staff and visitors shared how honored they were to meet her: “You’ve made my day,” said Talaya Esquilin, command center operator for The Wharf. “Meeting you Mrs. Marshall is overwhelming. Just to be in your presence is an awesome experience! This is an important bit of Southwest history for all of us,” Esquilin said.
Thelma D. Jones, a friend of Mrs. Marshall and fellow St. Augustine’s parishioner, contributed to this article.