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The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
BORN Jun 23, 1948 Savannah, GA ETHNICITY African RELIGION Roman Catholic MOTHER Leola Anderson FATHER M.C. Thomas FATHER'S OCCUPATION Farm worker
ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
Oct 23, 1991 — Present
APPOINTED BY George H. W. Bush COMMISSIONED Oct 16, 1991 SWORN IN Oct 23, 1991 SEAT 11 PRECEDED BY Thurgood Marshall
Clarence Thomas is known for his quiet, stoic demeanor during oral arguments and his conservative viewpoint that challenges, if not surpasses, even Scalia’s originalism. Thomas was born in a small town outside of Savannah, Georgia on June 23, 1948. His father left him, his older sister, and his mother two years later. His mother struggled to make ends meet as a single working mother, especially after giving birth to another son after Thomas' father left. After a fire left his family homeless, Thomas was sent to live with his maternal grandfather. Thomas’ grandfather was his most influential role model. He ran several of his own businesses and instilled in Thomas a sense of discipline and strength. When Thomas was sixteen, he fought to earn admittance into a boarding school seminary to pursue his dream of becoming a Catholic priest. He was the first black student admitted to St. John Vianney and felt the pressure of being the sole representative of his race during his time there. Thomas had excellent grades but struggled with the racially charged bullying he endured. In 1967, Thomas entered Conception Seminary at the college level. At this stage in his education, Thomas struggled with the passive stance the Catholic Church had taken in addressing civil rights. He decided to abandon his dream of becoming a priest soon after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in 1968.
Thomas transferred to College of the Holy Cross and graduated in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a passion for civil rights that drove him to pursue a career in law. He attended Yale Law School as one of the first students to benefit from the open admissions program that offered positions to black students in all-white colleges. Years later, Thomas would grow to abhor affirmative action, as hiring partners and other white colleagues would credit his accomplishments not to hard work and dedication, but to the color of his skin and the measures schools took to recruit black students. Upon graduation, Thomas began working in the office of the Missouri Attorney General after being admitted to the Missouri bar in 1974. In 1977, he worked for Senator John C. Danforth as his legislative assistant. After four years working with Danforth, President Reagan appointed Thomas as the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education. A year later, Reagan propelled his career even further by appointing him Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. By this point in Thomas’ life, he was still living with severe debt from student loans, an issue made worse by his addiction to alcohol. Once Thomas decided he could no longer afford to drink as he did, he quit drinking all together. Thomas served at the EEOC for eight years, and in 1990, President George H. W. Bush nominated Thomas to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit.
As a 43-year-old with barely one year of experience on the judiciary under his belt, Clarence Thomas was quite young and inexperienced when George H. W. Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court in 1991. Thomas experienced a particularly rigorous and dramatic round of Senate hearings. A former employee at the EEOC, Anita Hill, accused him of sexual harassment. After the FBI investigated and returned with an inconclusive report, the Senate initially decided not to pursue the report and continued with the hearings. The accusation was leaked to the press, and women’s rights groups across America demanded that the Senate further investigate the matter. Anita Hill was called to testify in front of the Senate. Thomas denied all the allegations and spoke out against the unprofessional nature of the proceedings. Eventually, the Senate confirmed Thomas in October 1991 by the narrowest margin in a century.
Clarence Thomas is the second black justice to serve on the Court. As a Supreme Court justice, Thomas is notorious for his lack of questions during oral arguments. While many justices use questions to show their opinion on an issue or communicate with the other justices as to their feelings on a case, Thomas remains silent – but that does not hinder the other justices from discerning his thoughts. His reputation of conservativism guides their predictions. He has shown his opinions to lean farther right than any other justice on the bench today. Though Thomas is known for his lack of engagement in the oral arguments, his intellect is indispensable to his conservative cohorts. He contributed heavily both to Scalia’s opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, a gun control case, and Kennedy’s opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a major campaign finance law case. Thomas also penned the conservative majority decision in Good News Club v. Milford Central School, where he stated that the public school violated the First Amendment when it refused to allow a religious club from meeting there. He also wrote a dissent in Gonzales v. Raich that exhibited his relative ease at overturning decades of precedent. The Gonzales case focused on the Commerce Clause powers granted to Congress in the Constitution and whether they reach so far as to allow regulation of a woman growing medicinal marijuana for personal use as granted by her home state. Thomas argued that allowing the Commerce Clause and congressional regulation to reach into a situation where there was no direct connection to commerce was unconstitutional.
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For other people named Clarence Thomas, see Clarence Thomas (disambiguation).
Official portrait, 2007
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United StatesIncumbentAssumed office
October 23, 1991
Nominated by George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Thurgood Marshall
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia CircuitIn office
March 12, 1990 – October 23, 1991
Nominated by George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Robert Bork
Succeeded by Judith W. Rogers
Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity CommissionIn office
May 6, 1982 – March 8, 1990
President Ronald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Eleanor Holmes Norton
Succeeded by Evan Kemp
Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office for Civil RightsIn office
June 26, 1981 – May 6, 1982
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Cynthia Brown
Succeeded by Harry Singleton
Born June 23, 1948 (age 74)
Pin Point, Georgia, U.S.
Spouse(s) Kathy Ambush
(m. 1971; div. 1984)
Virginia Lamp (m. 1987)
Children 1 Education
College of the Holy Cross (BA)
Yale University (JD)
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vteClarence Thomas (born June 23, 1948) is an American judge who serves as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was nominated by President George H. W. Bush to succeed Thurgood Marshall and has served since 1991. Thomas is the second African American to serve on the Court, after Marshall. Since 2018, Thomas has been the longest-serving member of the Court with a tenure of over 30 years.
Thomas grew up in a poor Gullah community in Savannah, Georgia, and was educated at the College of the Holy Cross and Yale Law School. He was appointed an assistant attorney general in Missouri in 1974 and later entered private practice there. He became a legislative assistant to United States Senator John Danforth in 1979, and he was appointed Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education in 1981. President Ronald Reagan appointed Thomas Chairman to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1982.
President Bush nominated Thomas to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1990. He served in that role for 16 months before filling Marshall's seat on the 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 the EEOC. Hill claimed that Thomas made multiple sexual and romantic overtures to her despite her repeatedly telling him to stop. Thomas and his supporters asserted that Hill, as well as the witnesses on her behalf and supporters, had fabricated the allegations to prevent the appointment of a black conservative to the Court. The Senate confirmed Thomas by a vote of 52–48.
Supreme Court experts describe Thomas's jurisprudence as originalist, stressing the original meaning of the United States Constitution and statutes. He also supported ideas of natural law before becoming a judge. Since at least 2011, Thomas has been widely held to be the Court's most conservative member.
1 Early life and education
1.1 Childhood 1.2 Education 1.3 Legal education
1.4 Literary influences
2 Career 2.1 Early career 2.2 Federal judge
2.3 Supreme Court nomination and confirmation
2.3.1 Announcement and hearings
2.3.2 Anita Hill allegations
2.3.3 Senate votes 3 Public perception
4 Judicial philosophy
4.1 Conservatism and originalism
4.2 Voting alignment
4.3 Number of opinions and frequency in dissent
4.4 4.5 Commerce Clause 4.6 Executive power 4.7 Federalism
4.8 Federal statutes
4.9 Bill of Rights
4.9.1 First Amendment
4.9.2 Second Amendment
4.9.3 Fourth Amendment
4.9.4 Sixth Amendment
4.9.5 Eighth Amendment
4.10 Race, equal protection, and affirmative action
4.11 Abortion and family planning
4.12 LGBTQ rights
5 Approach to oral arguments
6 Personal life 6.1 Family 6.2 Religion
6.3 Alleged harassment
7 Honors and recognition
8 Writings 9 See also 10 References 10.1 Works cited 11 Further reading 12 External links
Early life and education
Thomas was born in 1948 in Pin Point, Georgia, a small, predominantly black community near Savannah founded by freedmen after the Civil War. He was the second of three children born to M. C. Thomas, a farm worker, and Leola "Pigeon" Williams, a domestic worker. They were the descendants of slaves, and the family spoke Gullah as a first language. Thomas's earliest known ancestors were slaves named Sandy and Peggy, who were born in the late 18th century and owned by wealthy planter Josiah Wilson of Liberty County, Georgia. Thomas's father left the family when Thomas was two years old. Though Thomas's mother worked hard, she was sometimes paid only pennies per day and struggled to earn enough money to feed the family, and she was sometimes forced to rely on charity. After a house fire left them homeless, Thomas and his younger brother Myers were taken to live in Savannah with his maternal grandparents, Myers and Christine ( Hargrove) Anderson.
Clarence Thomas (Supreme Court)
Ballotpedia: The Encyclopedia of American Politics
Clarence Thomas (Supreme Court)
Supreme Court of the United States
Tenure 1991 - Present Years in position 30 Prior offices
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
College of the Holy Cross, 1971
Yale Law School, 1974
Personal Birthplace Savannah, Ga.Clarence Thomas is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was nominated by President George H.W. Bush (R) to fill the seat left vacant by Thurgood Marshall and was sworn in on October 23, 1991, becoming the second black justice to sit on the Court in U.S. history.
Thomas began his legal career as an assistant attorney general of Missouri. He worked as a legislative assistant to Sen. John Danforth (R) before being appointed assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education by President Ronald Reagan (R). He was later appointed chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where he stayed for eight years until Bush nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1990.
Thomas served on the District of Columbia court from 1990 to 1991, when he joined the Supreme Court.
Thomas’ notable opinions include the majority opinions in the death penalty case and religious speech case .
Professional career1991 - Present: Associate justice, Supreme Court of the United States1990-1991: Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit1982-1990: Chairman, United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)1981-1982: Assistant secretary of education, Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education1979-1981: Legislative assistant, Senator John Danforth (R-Mo.)1977-1979: Attorney, Monsanto, St. Louis, Mo.1974-1977: Assistant attorney general of Missouri
Early life and education
Thomas attended high school in Savannah, Georgia, where he was an honors student. Raised Roman Catholic, Justice Thomas considered entering the priesthood at the age of 16 and attended St. John Vianney's Minor Seminary (Savannah) on the Isle of Hope. At a nun's suggestion, Thomas attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. At Holy Cross, Thomas helped found the Black Student Union and graduated in 1971 with a B.A., , in English literature. Justice Thomas then attended Yale Law School, where he earned his J.D. in 1974.
Approach to the law
Thomas is considered a judicial conservative adhering to the principle of originalism. Nina Totenberg of NPR called Thomas the "Supreme Court's Conservative Beacon" in July 2019. , a law project created by Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, Justia, and Chicago-Kent College of Law, said in 2019 that Thomas "has shown his opinions to lean farther right than any other justice on the bench today."
Thomas is known to rarely ask questions during oral arguments. In March 2019, Thomas asked two questions during arguments for . CBS noted that it was the first time since 2016 and only the third time since 2006 that Thomas had spoken during an oral argument.
Thomas is also known to write more concurring opinions or dissents than other justices on the court. wrote in 2016 that Thomas did so to lay the foundation for future rulings, saying the justice was "patiently planting seeds that, though they had no immediate impact, may eventually flower by the strength of their reason."
Thomas' Martin-Quinn score following the 2020-2021 term was 3.03, making him the most conservative justice on the court at that time. Martin-Quinn scores were developed by political scientists Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn from the University of Michigan, and measure the justices of the Supreme Court along an ideological continuum. The further from zero on the scale, the more conservative (>0) or liberal (<0) the justice. The chart below details every justice's Martin-Quinn score for the 2020-2021 term.
Thomas spoke at the Library of Congress in February 2018 discussing his memoir, the confirmation process, being on the court as an introvert, and his favorite and least favorite things about serving on the court. The video of that event is embedded below.
Thomas spoke at the Federalist Society's 2013 National Lawyers Convention Annual Dinner discussing his upbringing, religion, and originalism. The video of that event is embedded below.
Judicial nominations and appointments
United States Supreme Court (1991 - present)Nomination Tracker
Nominee InformationName: Clarence ThomasCourt: Supreme Court of the United States
Nominated: July 8, 1991
ABA Rating: Questionnaire:
Hearing: September 10-20, 1991; October 11-13, 1991
Hearing Transcript: Hearing Transcript
QFRs: (Hover over QFRs to read more)
Reported: October 1, 1991
Confirmed: October 15, 1991