One City, One Book. It's a first for Columbus: asking all the people in the city to read a book over six weeks. The selection of Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America for the city's reading assignment is significant to Wil Haygood, author of the book and native of the city. "Any writer in any city would be extremely proud of this moment. That means a lot to a writer," Haygood said today during an assembly at the Columbus East High School where he attended for a time and played basketball.

One City, One Book.

It’s a first for Columbus: asking all the people in the city to read a book over six weeks.

The selection of Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America for the city’s reading assignment is significant to Wil Haygood, author of the book and native of the city.

“Any writer in any city would be extremely proud of this moment. That means a lot to a writer,” Haygood said today during an assembly at the Columbus East High School where he attended for a time and played basketball.

The new book by Haygood, 61, a journalist and author, was selected for the inaugural “Columbus READS: One City, One Book” program, backed by Mayor Michael B. Coleman, Columbus City Schools, and the Columbus Metropolitan Library. The six-week reading assignment runs through Nov. 12.

“Get this book,” Coleman said, holding up a copy of Haygood’s work. “This man (Marshall) had an enormous impact on civil rights in this country. This school, your parents, your children one day, and your career at all affected. He can’t forget what he’s done.”

Library spokesman Ben Zenitsky said Haygood’s book was chosen to launch the program due to the local connection and because “this is a time when race relations in our county are causing us to take another look at our history. This is a good book to do that.”

The library purchased 300 copies of Haygood’s book; 130 have already been checked out. Zenitsky said the campaign will be promoted in each library branch with a life-size cutout photo of Marshall holding the book.

Columbus attorney Larry James, to whom Haygood dedicated the book along with Coleman, said “ America is at such a crossroads when we talk about race. This book refreshes our memories of the struggle. Many of us had forgotten what it took it took to get here.”

A Baltimore native, Marshall was the NAACP attorney in seminal civil right rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 ruling that overturned the “separate but equal” public education policy. President Lyndon Johnson nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1964, leading to the “showdown” in the book when Marshall faced a gauntlet of critics during his five-day nomination hearing before he was confirmed.

The event today at East was a homecoming for Haygood who grew up nearby on Mount Vernon Avenue and attended East before moving and graduating from Franklin Heights High School.

During a question and answer session, East students asked Haygood about his writing habits, his inspiration and how it feels to be a literary celebrity.

Katana Broomfield, 17, had something else on her mind. She told Haygood she too, wants to be a writer. He gave her a pen and urged her to keep writing what she knows.

“I think my greatest strength is expressing myself,” Katana said afterward. “I want to write a biography about my life and about how young people make decisions.”

Haygood said he decided to be a writer after getting fired from a job at Macy’s in New York City. At that point, he followed his childhood interest in telling stories. “When I would go to the library and get books, I would be swept away,” he said.

After several years working for newspapers including The Boston Globe and the Post, Haygood is now concentrating fulltime on writing books.

“I’m really doing what I want to do,” he said.

ajohnson@dispatch.com

@ohioaj