WASHINGTON — Here are excerpts from Friday's news conference with retiring Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall:
Question: You said that you were never going to retire. What specifically changed your mind, sir?
Answer: My doctor and my wife and I have been discussing this for the past six months or more. And we all eventually agreed, all three of us, that this was it, and this is it.
Q: Do you think President Bush has any kind of an obligation to name a minority candidate for your job?
A: I don't think that that should be a ploy, and I don't think it should be used as an excuse one way or the other.
Q: An excuse for what, justice?
A: Doing wrong. I mean for picking the wrong Negro and saying I'm picking him because he's a Negro. I'm opposed to that. . . . My dad told me way back that you can't use race. For example, there's no difference between a white snake and a black snake. They'll both bite. . . .
Q: Justice Marshall, over the years you have said a number of critical things about George Bush. After the Willie Horton episode and after the President's actions on civil rights legislation, do you have any hope that the President will make an appointment that will reflect any sensitivity about the concerns of black people?
A: I don't have the slightest idea of making any comment on what, if anything, the President of the United States will do.
Q: Justice Marshall, are you saying that race should not be a factor in selecting your successor?
A: Of course I didn't say that, but it shouldn't be an excuse.
Q: But it may be a factor? It should be a factor?
A: I mean, I don't know what is the most important factor. I think the important factor is to pick the best person for the job, not on the basis of race one way or the other.
Q: Justice Marshall, would you share with us some of the medical facts . . . . What's wrong with you, sir?
A: What's wrong with me? I'm old. I'm getting old and coming apart.
Q: How do you feel about the process of having a conservative succeed you on the court?
A: It's up to the President.
Q: What do you think about the idea of having (appellate judge) Clarence Thomas as the person to succeed you?
A: I think the President knows what he's doing and he's going to do it.
Q: You said recently or not too long ago that a lot of people quote Martin Luther King as saying: " 'Free at last,' but we're not free."
A: Well, I'm not free. All I know is that years ago, when I was a youngster, a Pullman porter told me that he'd been in every city in this country, he was sure, and he had never been in any city in the United States where he had to put his hands up in front of his face to find out that he was a Negro. I agree with him.
Q: Your retirement has been characterized as leaving in anger or frustration, finding yourself on the dissenting side.
A: Of course.
Q: Is that true? Is that an accurate characterization?
A: Who said that?
Q: It's on the front page of the New York Times this morning.
A: The front page of the New York Times said that I was frustrated?
Q: And angry at finding yourself in dissent . . .
A: That's a double-barreled lie.
Q: Do you have any plans for your retirement?
Q: What are they?
A: Sit on my rear end.
Q: Justice Marshall, how do you want to be remembered?
A: That he did what he could with what he had.