The Supreme Court is the highest federal court in the United States. This prestigious and powerful court holds nine positions. The individuals chosen for these positions are known as Justices, and are carefully appointed. Each of the nine Justices has their own interesting life story, but perhaps Associate Justice, Clarence Thomas, has the most interesting story of them all as his success came after years of hardship.
Thomas was born in a small town just outside Savannah, Georgia in 1948. His father left his family just two years later, leaving his mother struggling to provide for Thomas and his siblings. Unfortunately, already having a limited about of possessions, a fire destroyed everything they had, leaving Thomas no choice but to go live with his grandfather. Luckily, Thomas’ grandfather was just the role model he needed in his life.
Thomas was able to gain his incredible sense of strength and discipline through his grandfather. In fact, it was Thomas’ grandfather who pushed him to earn admittance to a boarding school seminary to pursue a career of becoming a Catholic Priest. Unfortunately, Thomas entered the seminary in 1967, which was time period in the midst of a racially-charged civil rights battle.
This left Thomas as the recipient of countless instances of bullying. To make matters worse, Thomas disliked the stance that the Catholic church had taken regarding civil rights. Shortly afterwards, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, which is when Thomas decided to call it quits and pursue another dream, one that specifically corresponded with his beliefs.
Thomas then transferred to Holy Cross, eventually graduating with a bachelors degree in english literature in 1971. However, it was Thomas’ extreme passion for civil rights that pushed him to pursue a career in law.
Impressively, Thomas got accepted in Yale Law School. Thomas excelled in Yale, however, just as his life pattern had gone thus far, he suffered adversity. Despite his hard work and accomplishments, his colleagues and potential employers viewed his achievements strictly as a result of the color of his skin and the measures taken by Yale to heavily recruit African-American students. In other words, his incredible characteristics of hard work, dedication and discipline were ignored and disregarded. Eager to prove his abilities, Thomas landed a job in the office of the Missouri Attorney General upon graduation in 1974.
Thomas’ hard work began to get recognized, as his next job was as a legislative assistant for Senator John C. Danforth. After four years working for Senator Danforth, with his impressive resume, President Raegan personally appointed him as the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education, which was the gateway for him being appointed as Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission only a year later in 1982.
Unfortunately, Thomas’ success was constantly shadowed by his own demons and issues. Thomas was living with an unbearable amount of student debt, however, that wasn’t the most concerning of Thomas’ issues, as his Alcoholism had reached new feats. Fortunately, like all other obstacles, Thomas was able to overcome his alcohol addiction, allowing him to continue his iconic career.
Thomas continued to work and excel, which is what lead to his nomination as Supreme Court Justice in 1991. However, this came with rough patches, as allegations of sexual assault by a former co-worker nearly compromised his career. Although the FBI investigated the allegation but came up empty-handed, women’s rights groups across the United States commanded that the Senate investigate the allegation even further.
This lead to several Senate hearings and even a testimony by the accuser, Anita Hill, in front of the board. All in all, both the FBI and Senate sided with Thomas, leaving his nomination as among the most controversial in U.S. history.
Now, Thomas has remained on the United States Supreme Court for 26 years. With no plans of retirement anytime soon, Thomas’ story is truly one that exemplifies what hard work and perseverance can overcome.
As of today, Thomas has classified himself as a conservative justice, which has often left him as a one-man-army among the remaining Justices. In fact, according Marcus Hawkins, a political journalist, “Thomas has offered lone dissenting opinions, and at times, has been the sole conservative voice on the Court.”
Because of his beliefs, as well as the hardship he’s endured, Thomas is a man of few words. In fact, Thomas had a decade-long tenure where he didn’t ask a single question from the Supreme Court bench. On February 19, 2016, “Thomas broke his silence as he voiced his opinion on a case regarding domestic violence and gun rights,” stated New York Times journalist, Doug Mills.
In addition, “He chose to ask a question he obviously thought his colleagues hadn’t paid enough attention to: whether the constitutional protections in the Second Amendment were being taken seriously enough,” said Carrie Severino, a former law clerk to Justice Thomas. This proved that although Thomas is a quiet man, he will stand up when he feels the constitution is being unfair or that the constitution is being disrespected, even if that’s by his own colleagues.