Sen. Schumer 'Sorry' for Saying Supreme Court Was 'All White Men' Until '81 — Ignoring Justice Marshall

The Senate Majority Leader apologized for a mistake in his recent remarks about the history of the high court and its first African-American justice

Chuck Schumer
Sen. Chuck Schumer. Photo: Getty Images

Amid the excitement and speculation over President Joe Biden's vow to make history by nominating a Black woman to the United States Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is correcting himself after saying the nation's highest court was "all white men" until 1981.

The New York Democrat failed to acknowledge Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court.

Marshall's tenure as an associate justice lasted from 1967 until 1991.

"Sorry that I misspoke earlier today. Of course, I remember the dedication and legal excellence that Thurgood Marshall brought to the Supreme Court," Schumer tweeted Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Schumer was on the Senate floor speaking about Biden's promise to nominate a Black woman for the first time to the court, following Justice Stephen Breyer's announcement that he will retire when the term ends.

"Never, never has there been an African-American woman, who still make up barely 6 percent of the federal judiciary," Schumer said. "Amazing, until 1981, this powerful body, the Supreme Court, was all white men. Imagine. America wasn't all white men in 1981, or ever."

In 1981, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman to serve on the high court. She was nominated by Republican President Ronald Reagan, who had vowed during his 1980 campaign to make history by nominating the first woman to the court. O'Connor served until 2005. She was replaced by Justice Samuel Alito, a President George W. Bush appointee.

Marshall's historic nomination came from President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. He died two years after his retirement from the court in 1993, at age 84.

With Democrats holding only the slightest possible edge thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote, Schumer will be instrumental in the confirmation process for Biden's nominee once she is announced in the coming weeks.

"President Biden's Supreme Court nominee will receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee and be considered and confirmed by the full United States Senate with all deliberate speed," Schumer said after news broke of Breyer's retirement.

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