John Marshall was born in 1755 in Virginia as the first of 15 children. After studying law, he served in the Virginia legislature for eight sessions. Marshall then served for one term in Congress and spent one year as the Secretary of State under President John Adams. In 1801, John Marshall was appointed as the fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court.
The first important case for Marshall, Marbury vs. Madison in 1803, radically changed the powers of the Supreme Court. He ruled that the Supreme Court had the power to disregard any act of Congress that it thought violated the Constitution. This power, known as judicial review, is the basis of the Supreme Court today.
His tenure of 34 years as chief justice of the Supreme Court is unmatched by any of his successors. Although many of his decisions were controversial at the time, they are widely accepted today. John Marshall died in Philadelphia on July 6, 1835.