Clarence Thomas

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Thomas, Clarence,

1948–, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1991–), b. Pin Point (Savannah), Ga. Raised in a poor family, he graduated (1974) from the Yale Law School and became a prominent black conservative active in Republican causes. He chaired the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1982–90) during the Reagan and Bush administrations, and attempted there to modify the application of federal affirmative actionaffirmative action,
in the United States, programs to overcome the effects of past societal discrimination by allocating jobs and resources to members of specific groups, such as minorities and women.
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 guidelines. In 1990 he was appointed a judge on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In July, 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Thomas to the Supreme Court, to replace Thurgood MarshallMarshall, Thurgood,
1908–93, U.S. lawyer and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1967–91), b. Baltimore. He received his law degree from Howard Univ. in 1933. In 1936 he joined the legal staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
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. In Oct., 1991, when approval was all but assured, the Senate Judiciary Committee reopened confirmation hearings to examine charges by Anita Hill, a Univ. of Oklahoma law professor, that Thomas had subjected her to sexual harassmentsexual harassment,
in law, verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, aimed at a particular person or group of people, especially in the workplace or in academic or other institutional settings, that is actionable, as in tort or under equal-opportunity statutes.
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 while she was an EEOC employee in the 1980s. Testimony and debate on the charges, followed by a nationwide television audience and revealing deep divisions among the public, did not in the end change the committee's recommendation for approval, and Thomas was confirmed by a full Senate vote of 52 to 48. Taking his seat, he aligned himself with Antonin ScaliaScalia, Antonin,
1936–2016, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1986–2016), b. Trenton, N.J. He graduated from Harvard Law School (1960) and subsequently taught law at the Univ. of Virginia (1967–71) and the Univ. of Chicago (1977–82).
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, forming the Court's most conservative grouping.


See his memoir (2007); studies by C. Robin (2019) and M. Magnet (2019).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Thomas, Clarence

(1948–  ) Supreme Court justice; born in Pin Point, Ga. Shaped by his poor-but-proud family and his Catholic schooling, he went on to graduate from Holy Cross College and Yale Law School and to espouse conservative views on the situation of his fellow African-Americans. He worked as assistant secretary of education (1981) and then headed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1981–89). President Bush appointed him to the federal court of appeals (1990–91) and to the U.S. Supreme Court, where, only after a highly controversial Senate hearing and vote, did he become the second African-American to take a seat (1991).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
The nine Justices rarely explain their rulings outside of their written opinions, but Justice Clarence Thomas had agreed to the session months earlier, certainly not anticipating it would come on the heels of a ruling that rocked the nation.
In 1984 she wrote Clinton a congratulatory letter, appending a handwritten note, "I admire you very much" Our friends tell us this is just like what Anita Hill did following Clarence Thomas' advances.
("A bit nutty and a bit slutty" was his description of Hill, who went public in 1991 with claims that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her years earlier.)
Clarence Thomas, the court's only African American justice, joined the majority of justices critical of federal affirmative action programs.
In 1991, Lane, who is white, pulled together a front group of African Americans to support the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.
More recently, after the Supreme Court ruling upholding affirmative action, New Fork Times columnist Maureen Dowd said this about Clarence Thomas' dissenting opinion: "The dissent is a clinical study of a man who has been driven barking mad by the beneficial treatment he has received." Thomas, of course, has been the target of exceptionally nasty rhetoric from his critics; in 1994, on the PBS show To the Contrary, Julianne Malveaux remarked, "I hope that his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early like many black men do, of heart disease."
The arguments of Souter, Stevens, Breyer, and Ginsburg can easily be marshaled to head off those of Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy, as well as the George Wills of this world, who want no limits at all on the amount of money people may contribute.
Back during the Clarence Thomas debacle, women used the catchphrase: "They just don't get it." Well, in this case, nobody gets it.
In fact, the presence of these members has largely isolated the three die-hard conservatives--Chief Justice Rehnquist, Clarence Thomas, and Scalia.
But he has been replaced as the only African-American on the court by Clarence Thomas. Thomas, who is one of the nation's most prominent black beneficiaries of affirmative action, is a sworn ideological enemy of the policy.
The thought of more justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the high court's most dogged opponents of separation of church and state, made some positively giddy.
Bush has made it clear that his favorite justices are Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia--probably the worst pair ever to have served on the Court in modern times.

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