Clarence Thomas- The “Silent” Supreme Court Justice



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Justice Clarence Thomas is the second African American appointed to the supreme court.  Thomas is well known for being quiet, and calm during oral arguments. Thomas was born in a small town outside of Savannah, Georgia. In 1948 his father left him, his older sister, along with his mother who had just given birth to a new child. His mother struggled to make a living, after a fire broke out leaving Thomas and his family homeless, Thomas was sent to his maternal grandfather.

Thomas’s grandfather was his most inspirational role model and is one of the biggest reasons Clarence Thomas is successful today. When Thomas was 16, he fought to earn admittance into a boarding school seminary to pursue his dream of becoming a catholic priest.  He was the first black student admitted into St John Vianney and he felt that he had become responsible for representing his race during his time there. Thomas felt that the catholic church was too passive in addressing civil rights and soon gave up his dream of becoming a priest after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968.

The decision to work for civil rights changed the direction of his life – He went to the best law schools and still questioned affirmative action as something that overlooked his individual ability.   As only the 2nd black SC justice and currently the only serving black SC justice he hates affirmative action.  Affirmative action is action or policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education; it is a positive discrimination seen as a form of corrective justice for wrongs committed against a minority population such as African Americans or Native Americans.


Unlike Clarence Thomas, I agree with this type of social justice because it demonstrates restorative and distributive action of justice. Restorative justice brings responsibility to the equation in order to fix, or make things right. Distributive justice works in favor of rights and goods equally distributed to deserving citizens.

Justice Thomas has overcome some personal struggles and challenges such as alcoholism and accusations of sexual misconduct by Anita Hill when he was being approved as an court appointee by Congress.

Do personal struggles in the lives of public figures help or hurt?

How does seeing someone overcome obstacles allow you to give them respect?

Yes, personal struggles can make a huge impact in lives of public figures as the situation can negatively affect the public perception of that person. For example, the Bill Clinton scandal did not change his goals for the success of the country, but this incident negatively affected him as people did not view him the same anymore even though he was the same person. It may have alos affected people’s view of his wife and Democratic candidate for President; Hillary Clinton.

When the nomination moved to the floor of the Senate, it took a sudden and dramatic turn when Anita Hill, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, came forward with accusations that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. Hill had worked for Thomas years earlier when he was head of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. Hill charged that Thomas harassed her with inappropriate discussion of sexual acts and pornographic films after she rebuffed his invitations to date him. A media frenzy quickly arose around Hill’s allegations and Thomas’s denials. When Thomas testified about Hill’s claims before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he called the hearings, “a high-tech lynching for uppity Blacks.” The incident became one person’s word against another’s. In the end, the Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Clarence Thomas as associate justice of the Supreme Court.


Maybe all the negative attention he received when he was being appointed influenced his policy of staying quiet as a justice.  He listens much more than he speaks as a Justice and he  has been serving for 27 years.