Pieces of Thurgood Marshall Memorial in Annapolis placed in storage because of monument damage

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After some cracking was discovered near the top of the columns that stand behind the statue of Thurgood Marshall on Lawyers Mall in front of the Maryland State House, the columns and the tablets on top of them were placed in storage last week, state officials say.

After some cracking was discovered near the top of the columns that stand behind the statue of Thurgood Marshall on Lawyers Mall in front of the Maryland State House, the columns and the tablets on top of them were placed in storage last week, state officials say.

“It’s unknown quite how that damage occurred,” said Elaine Rice Bachmann, state archivist with the Maryland State Archives.


Both Bachmann and the man who designed the 26-year-old memorial, Toby Mendez, suspect the cracking may have occurred when the monument was removed from Lawyers Mall for a piping project in 2019. During that time Lawyers Mall also was redesigned to be more accessible to those with disabilities. The plaza was rededicated after that work was completed in 2021.

“The whole monument had to be taken apart and put back together again to accommodate the infrastructure project a few years ago so there could have been something inherent in that process,” Bachmann said.

The Thurgood Marshall statue is crated on Lawyers Mall in front of the Department of Legislative Services building, which is being demolished, as seen from above Government House, with College Avenue at left and State Circle at right.

With the Department of Legislative Services building near the memorial being torn down, the statues on Lawyers Mall are encased in boxes to protect them from debris, said Nick Cavey, spokesperson for the Department of General Services.

A new building is expected to be completed in the same spot in 2024. Once the exterior of the new building is completed, the columns and entablature atop them will be returned to the mall, Cavey said.

The nearby construction and removal of the pillars from the memorial may pose some logistical issues for the next governor’s inauguration, which typically occurs in front of the State House with seating in Lawyers Mall. Bachmann said the boxes protecting the statues will be removed for inauguration day.

The six columns are split with the statue of the Baltimore-born Marshall in between. The entablature sits horizontally on top of the columns with the inscription “Equal Justice” balanced on the left three columns and “Under Law” balanced on the right three.

That splintering of the column design was intentional, Mendez said.

Fifth grade students solve a math problem involving Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s birth and death dates at Lawyers Mall on May 4 before the statues to boxed and columns removed.

“With ‘Equal Justice Under Law,’ we divided that phrase so that it’s on two different entablatures with the idea that, until Brown v. Board of Education was decided, justice was not whole,” he said. “That phrase was unified by Thurgood Marshall.”

The columns were designed to represent the U.S. Supreme Court, which Mendez wanted to include in the memorial as Marshall was the first Black justice on the Supreme Court.

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The materials chosen for the monument were traditional for buildings in the region, particularly limestone, which was used to build the Pentagon and the National Cathedral, Mendez said. Those materials are usually pretty durable, he added.


Besides the materials and subject being particularly Maryland-centric, the construction team was as well. Eight masons from Upper Marlboro brought Mendez’s design to life. Masons from the same company, Pagliaro Brothers Stone Co., which no longer exists, also constructed the Navy Memorial and the National World War II Memorial in Washington and helped restore the U.S. Capitol building. Joe Moss, a stone carver in Annapolis, carved the letters “Equal Justice Under Law.”

Figures seated on benches beside Marshall represent two of his landmark cases in the push for racial integration, Mendez said. Donald Gaines Murray, sits on the first bench. Marshall successfully argued in the 1930s that Murray should be able to attend the University of Maryland’s law school. The other bench depicts two children representing Marshall’s win in the Brown v. Board of Education case, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision that desegregated U.S. public schools.

When Marshall died in 1993, the state decided to honor him with a memorial at Lawyers Mall. Mendez was chosen from a nationwide pool of applicants to design the memorial, which was dedicated in 1996.

Continuing his streak of designing monuments to American heroes, Mendez is working on memorials to nurse and Red Cross founder Clara Barton in Hagerstown and pioneering fly fisherman Lefty Kreh in Frederick.

Mendez said he appreciates the care the state government is taking with his work.

“It’s unusual to take a memorial apart and put it back together, but they had to do that to protect it,” he said. “That’s what they’re doing right now, just protecting it.”