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Clarence Thomas

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Clarence Thomas
Current Court Information:
Supreme Court of the United States
Title:   Associate Justice
Appointed by:   George H.W. Bush
Approval vote:   52-48
Active:   7/1/1991-Present
Preceded by:   Thurgood Marshall
Past post:   District of Columbia Court of Appeals
Past term:   1990-1991
Personal History
Born:   June 23, 1948
Hometown:   Savannah, GA
Undergraduate:   Holy Cross, B.A., 1971 (Worcester, MA)
Law School:   Yale Law, J.D., 1974

Clarence Thomas is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was appointed by Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1991. Thomas is the second African American to serve on the nation's highest court, after Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Judicial philosophy

Thomas's career in the Supreme Court has seen him take a conservative approach to cases while adhering to the principle of originalism.


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 sixteen, 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., cum laude in English literature.[1][2]

Justice Thomas attended Yale Law School from which he received a J.D. degree in 1974.


From 1974 to 1977, Thomas was an Assistant Attorney General of Missouri under then State Attorney General John Danforth. When Danforth was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1976 to 1979, Thomas left to become an attorney with Monsanto in St. Louis, Missouri. He returned to work for Danforth from 1979 to 1981 as a Legislative Assistant.

In 1981, he joined the Reagan administration. From 1981 to 1982, Thomas served as Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education. From 1982 to 1990 he was Chairman of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

Judicial career

Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed Thomas to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.[3]

Supreme Court

On July 1, 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall.[4] President Bush said that Thomas was the "best qualified [nominee] at this time."[4] He received a "qualified" rating from the American Bar Association.[5]

Supreme Court confirmation

Clarence Thomas's formal confirmation hearings began on September 10, 1991.

Anita Hill allegations

Supreme Court Nomination Hearings from PBS

Toward the end of the confirmation hearings, an FBI interview with Anita Hill, an attorney who had worked for Thomas at the Department of Education and the EEOC, was leaked. Hill was called to testify at Thomas' confirmation hearings, where she alleged that Thomas had subjected her to inappropriate harassing comments of a sexual nature. Hill's testimony included lurid details and she was aggressively questioned by some Senators.

Thomas denied the allegations, stating:

This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.

This is not an opportunity to talk about difficult matters privately or in a closed environment. This is a circus. It's a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree.[6]

After extensive debate, on September 27, the Judiciary Committee split 7-7 and sent the nomination to the full Senate without a recommendation. Thomas was confirmed by the Senate with a 52-48 vote on October 15, 1991, the narrowest margin for approval in more than a century.[7] The final floor vote was mostly along party lines: 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats voted to confirm while 46 Democrats and two Republicans voted to reject the nomination. On October 23, 1991, Thomas took his seat as the 106th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

Tenure on court

During his time on the bench, Thomas has established a reputation for not speaking during oral arguments. On January 14, 2013, Justice Thomas spoke during oral argument for the first time since February 22, 2006. Upon breaking his silence during arguments, he made a joke about the competency of law degrees from Yale, where he earned his J.D. in 1974.[8]

Oath of office

Justice Thomas took the Constitutional Oath of Office in the White House Rose Garden on October 18, 1991, which was administered by Associate Justice Byron White. The Judicial Oath of Office was administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist on October 23, 1991.[9]

Notable rulings

Capital Punishment/Death Penalty

Like Scalia, Thomas takes a narrow view of the substantive limitations imposed by the Constitution on the use of capital punishment; he was among the dissenters in both Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. Simmons, which held that the Constitution prohibited the application of the death penalty to certain classes of persons. In Kansas v. March, his opinion for the court indicated a belief that the Constitution affords states broad procedural latitude in imposing the death penalty provided they remain within the limits of Furman v. Georgia and Gregg v. Georgia.

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Robert Bork
DC Circuit Court of Appeals
Succeeded by:
Judith Rogers
Preceded by:
Thurgood Marshall
Supreme Court
Succeeded by: