Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas official SCOTUS portrait.jpg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
of the United States
Assumed office
October 23, 1991
Nominated byGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byThurgood Marshall
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
In office
March 12, 1990 – October 23, 1991
Nominated byGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byRobert Bork
Succeeded byJudith Rogers
Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
In office
May 6, 1982 – March 12, 1990
PresidentRonald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Preceded byEleanor Holmes Norton
Succeeded byEvan Kemp
Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office for Civil Rights
In office
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byCynthia Brown
Succeeded byHarry Singleton
Personal details
Born (1948-06-23) June 23, 1948 (age 70)
Pin Point, Georgia, U.S.
Kathy Ambush
(m. 1971; div. 1984)

Virginia Lamp (m. 1987)
EducationConception Seminary College
College of the Holy Cross (BA)
Yale University (JD)

Clarence Thomas (born June 23, 1948) is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was nominated by President George H. W. Bush in 1991 and succeeded Thurgood Marshall. Thomas is the second African American to serve on the Supreme Court; he is the longest-serving among its current members, with a tenure of 9,982 days (27 years, 120 days) as of February 20, 2019.

Thomas grew up in Savannah, Georgia, and was educated at the College of the Holy Cross and at Yale Law School. He was appointed an Assistant Attorney General in Missouri in 1974, and subsequently practiced law there in the private sector. In 1979, he became a legislative assistant to Senator John Danforth (R-MO) and in 1981 was appointed Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Thomas Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush nominated Thomas for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He served in that role for 16 months, and on July 1, 1991, was nominated by Bush to fill Marshall's seat on the United States Supreme Court. Thomas's confirmation hearings were bitter and intensely fought, centering on an accusation that he had sexually harassed attorney Anita Hill, a subordinate at the Department of Education and subsequently at the EEOC. Hill claimed that Thomas had repeatedly made sexual and romantic overtures to her, despite her repeatedly rebuffing him and telling him to stop; Thomas and his supporters claimed that Hill, witnesses who came forward on her behalf, and her supporters had fabricated the allegations to prevent a black conservative from getting a seat on the Supreme Court. The U.S. Senate ultimately confirmed Thomas by a vote of 52–48.

Since joining the court, Thomas has taken a textualist approach, seeking to uphold the original meaning of the United States Constitution and statutes. He is also, along with fellow justice Neil Gorsuch, an advocate of natural law jurisprudence. Thomas is generally viewed as the most conservative member of the court.[1][2][3] Thomas is also known for almost never speaking during oral arguments.[4]

Early life

Clarence Thomas was born in 1948 in Pin Point, Georgia, a small, predominantly black community near Savannah founded by freedmen after the American Civil War. He was the second of three children born to M.C. Thomas, a farm worker, and Leola Williams, a domestic worker.[5][6] They were descendants of American slaves, and the family spoke Gullah as a first language.[7] Thomas's earliest known ancestors were slaves named Sandy and Peggy, who were born around the end of the 18th century and owned by wealthy planter Josiah Wilson of Liberty County, Georgia.[8] M.C. left his family when Thomas was two years old. Thomas's mother worked hard but was sometimes paid only pennies per day. She had difficulty putting food on the table, and was forced to rely on charity.[9] After a house fire left them homeless, Thomas and his younger brother Myers were taken to live with his maternal grandparents in Savannah, Georgia. Thomas was seven when the family moved in with his maternal grandfather, Myers Anderson, and Anderson's wife, Christine (née Hargrove), in Savannah.[10]

Living with his grandparents, Thomas enjoyed amenities such as indoor plumbing and regular meals for the first time in his life.[5] His grandfather, Myers Anderson, had little formal education, but had built a thriving fuel oil business that also sold ice. Thomas calls his grandfather "the greatest man I have ever known."[10] When Thomas was 10, Anderson started taking the family to help at a farm every day from sunrise to sunset.[10] His grandfather believed in hard work and self-reliance; he would counsel Thomas to "never let the sun catch you in bed." Thomas' grandfather also impressed upon his grandsons the importance of getting a good education.[5]

Raised Catholic, he attended the majority-black St. Pius X high school for two years before transferring to St. John Vianney's Minor Seminary on the Isle of Hope, where he was an honor student and among very few black students.[10][11] He also briefly attended Conception Seminary College, a Roman Catholic seminary in Missouri. No-one in Thomas's family had attended college.[11] In a number of interviews, Thomas stated that he left the seminary in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. He had overheard another student say after the shooting, "Good, I hope the son of a bitch died."[6][12] He did not think the church did enough to combat racism.[10]

At a nun's suggestion, Thomas attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. While there, Thomas helped found the Black Student Union. Once, he walked out after an incident in which black students were punished while white students went undisciplined for committing the same violation; some of the priests negotiated with the protesting black students to re-enter the school.[11]

Having spoken the Gullah language as a child, Thomas realized in college that he still sounded unpolished despite having been drilled in grammar at school, and he chose to major in English literature "to conquer the language."[13] At Holy Cross, he was also a member of Alpha Sigma Nu and the Purple Key Society.[14] Thomas graduated from Holy Cross in 1971 with an A.B. cum laude in English literature.[13][14]

Thomas had a series of deferments from the military draft while in college at Holy Cross. Upon graduation, he was classified as 1-A and received a low lottery number, indicating he might be drafted to serve in Vietnam. Thomas failed his medical exam, due to curvature of the spine, and was not drafted.[15] Thomas entered Yale Law School, from which he received a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in 1974, graduating towards the middle of his class.[16]

Thomas has recollected that his Yale Juris Doctor degree was not taken seriously by law firms to which he applied after graduating. He said that potential employers assumed he obtained it because of affirmative action policies.[17] (In 1969 Dean Louis Pollak wrote that the law school was expanding its program of quotas for black applicants, with up to 24 entering that year admitted under a system that deemphasized grades and LSAT scores.[18]) According to Thomas, he was "asked pointed questions, unsubtly suggesting that they doubted I was as smart as my grades indicated."[19]

I peeled a fifteen-cent sticker off a package of cigars and stuck it on the frame of my law degree to remind myself of the mistake I'd made by going to Yale. I never did change my mind about its value.[20]

Other Languages
العربية: كلارنس توماس
español: Clarence Thomas
français: Clarence Thomas
Bahasa Indonesia: Clarence Thomas
italiano: Clarence Thomas
Bahasa Melayu: Clarence Thomas
Nederlands: Clarence Thomas
português: Clarence Thomas
Simple English: Clarence Thomas
српски / srpski: Кларенс Томас
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Clarence Thomas
українська: Кларенс Томас