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Wed, 06.23.1948

Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Judge

Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas was born on this date in 1948. He is an African American lawyer and associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Thomas was born in the Pin Point, GA, community near Savannah. His father left his family when he was two years old.  His mother was eventually unable to make ends meet and he was raised by his grandfather.

Thomas attended Conception Seminary from 1967 to 1968. He received an A. B., cum laude, from Holy Cross College in 1971, and a J. D. from Yale Law School in 1974.  He was admitted to law practice in Missouri in 1974, and served as an Assistant Attorney General of Missouri from 1974 to 1977. Thomas was an attorney with the Monsanto Company from 1977 to 1979; and Legislative Assistant to Senator John Danforth from 1979 to 1981.  From 1981 to 1982, he served as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education.

He became chair of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) until 1990. During this time, he married Virginia Lamp (1987); he has one child, Jamal Adeen, by a previous marriage.  From 1990 to 1991, he served as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  In July 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Thomas to the Supreme Court, to replace Thurgood Marshall.

In Oct. 1991, when approval was all but assured, the Senate Judiciary Committee reopened confirmation hearings to examine charges by Anita Hill, a University of Oklahoma law professor.  She alleged that Thomas had subjected her to sexual harassment while she was an EEOC employee in the 1980s. Testimony and debate on the charges did not change the committee's recommendation for approval. Thomas was confirmed by a full Senate vote of 52 to 48.

Taking his seat, he aligned himself with Antonin Scalia, forming the Court's most conservative grouping.  In 2007, Thomas published his autobiography titled “My Grandfathers Son.”

Thomas is often described as an originalist, or textualist, and a member of the conservative wing of the Supreme Court.  He is also often described as the most conservative member of the Supreme Court, although others gave Justice Scalia that designation.  Scalia and Thomas had similar but not identical judicial philosophies, and pundits speculate about the degree to which Scalia thought some of Thomas's views to be implausible.

Thomas's jurisprudence has also been described as similar to that of Justice Hugo Black, who "resisted the tendency to create social policy out of 'whole cloth.'"  According to the same commentator, Thomas generally declines to engage in judicial lawmaking, and instead views the constitutional role of the court as being the interpretation of law, rather than the making of law.

Reference:
Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and
African American Experience
Editors: Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Copyright 1999
ISBN 0-465-0071-1

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