Clarence Thomas (born June 23, 1948) is an American jurist 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. After Marshall, Thomas is the second African American to serve on the Court and its longest-serving member since Anthony Kennedy's retirement in 2018.
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States|
|Assumed 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 Circuit|
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 Commission|
May 6, 1982 – March 8, 1990
George H. W. Bush
|Preceded by||Eleanor Holmes Norton|
|Succeeded by||Evan Kemp|
|Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office for Civil Rights|
June 26, 1981 – May 6, 1982
|Preceded by||Cynthia Brown|
|Succeeded by||Harry Singleton|
|Born||June 23, 1948|
Pin Point, Georgia, U.S.
(m. 1971; div. 1984)
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Thomas was born in Pin Point, Georgia. After his father abandoned the family, he was raised by his grandfather in a poor Gullah community in Savannah. Growing up as a devout Catholic, Thomas originally intended to be a priest in the Catholic Church but was frustrated over the church's insufficient attempts to combat racism. He abandoned his aspiration of becoming a clergyman to attend the College of the Holy Cross and, later, Yale Law School. At Yale, Thomas was influenced by a number of conservative authors, notably Thomas Sowell, who dramatically shifted his worldview from progressive to conservative. Upon graduating, he was appointed as an assistant attorney general in Missouri and later entered private practice there. He became a legislative assistant to Senator John Danforth in 1979, and was made Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education in 1981. President Ronald Reagan appointed Thomas as Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the next year.
President George H. W. Bush nominated Thomas to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1990. He served in that role for 19 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 Anita Hill, a subordinate at the Department of Education and the EEOC. Hill alleged that Thomas made multiple sexual and romantic overtures to her despite her repeatedly telling him to stop. Thomas and his supporters denied the allegation, asserting that Hill and her political supporters had fabricated the accusation to prevent the appointment of a black conservative to the Court. The Senate confirmed Thomas by a vote of 52–48, the narrowest margin in a century.
Since the death of Antonin Scalia, Thomas has been the Court's foremost originalist member, stressing the original meaning in interpreting the Constitution. In contrast to Scalia—who had been the only other staunch originalist—he pursues a more "liberal originalism" and is famous for being silent in oral arguments. Thomas is notable for his majority opinions in Good News Club v. Milford Central School (determining the freedom of religious speech in relation to the First Amendment) and New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen (establishing the individual right to bear arms outside the home), as well as his dissent in Gonzales v. Raich (arguing that Congress may not criminalize marijuana). He is widely considered the Court's most conservative member.