Clarence Thomas

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.

Clarence Thomas
Official portrait, 2007
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Assumed office
October 23, 1991
Nominated byGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byThurgood Marshall
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
In office
March 12, 1990  October 23, 1991
Nominated byGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byRobert Bork
Succeeded byJudith W. Rogers
Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
In office
May 6, 1982  March 8, 1990
PresidentRonald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Preceded byEleanor Holmes Norton[1]
Succeeded byEvan Kemp[2]
Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office for Civil Rights
In office
June 26, 1981  May 6, 1982
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byCynthia Brown[3]
Succeeded byHarry Singleton[4]
Personal details
Born (1948-06-23) June 23, 1948 (age 74)
Pin Point, Georgia, U.S.
Spouse(s)
Kathy Ambush
(m. 1971; div. 1984)

(m. 1987)
Children1
Education
Signature

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.[5]

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"[6] and is famous for being silent in oral arguments.[7] 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.[8]


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