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Get to Know a Supreme Court Justice: Clarence Thomas

February 27, 2016 Hastings and Hastings

Clarence Thomas was once dubbed, “The Justice Nobody Knows” by CBS news. Hastings & Hastings’ Get to Know a Supreme Court Justice series doesn’t overlook anyone. Although he may not stand in the spotlight as much as his fellow justices, Clarence Thomas is none the less an important part of the Supreme Court.

Justice Thomas was born in 1948 in Pin Point, Georgia. During his childhood a tragic house fire left he and his family homeless. Eventually, he ended up living with his grandparents in Savana, Georgia. This was the first time Clarence Thomas enjoyed reliable indoor plumbing and regular meals. Living with his grandfather was a formative experience. Justice Thomas once called him, “the greatest man I have ever know.” With his grandparents he learned the value of hard work and self-reliance. He worked from sunup to sundown on their farm.

In Savana, he was the only black student at his high school. He briefly attended seminary before leaving in the aftermath of the Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination. He next enrolled at the College of Holy Cross in Massachusetts. There he majored in English. Next was Yale Law School and a career in the legal profession.

Justice Thomas worked for a few years as Assistant Attorney General in Missouri under State Attorney General John Danforth before leaving to work at the Monsanto Chemical Company.

In 1979 he entered the world of politics and joined the Reagan administration. He served as an assistant secretary in the Department of Education.

He began working on the federal level when President George H. W. Bush nominated him to take a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Thomas initially resisted becoming a judge.

In 1991, Justice Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bush following the retirement of Thurgood Marshall.