Clarence Thomas is a Supreme Court Justice, who has been under criticism since the day that he was appointed. Thomas has been chastised for his views on Affirmative Action and his views on African-American?s evolution into the mainstream of our society. Chief Justice Thomas, since his appointment has been marked as a far right conservative. In the beginning of his tenure he was labeled as Chief Justice Scalia?s, ?second vote.? Since then Thomas has removed himself from this shadow to show insight on his own conservative ideas.
Clarence Thomas was born on June 23, 1948 in Pin Point, Georgia. Thomas is a child of Mr. M.C. Thomas and Leola Anderson. He grew up in a single-mother household. Thomas?s father abandoned him and his mother, Leola, when he was two. Times were hard for his family, and his mother later sent him and his brother to live with his grandfather, Myers Anderson in Savannah, Georgia. His grandfather instilled in Clarence that education would be his key to unlocking the door to a successful life. He wanted him to overcome the color boundaries that were present during this time in America?s history.
Clarence Thomas has an extensive educational background. Thomas attended an all black high school in Savannah before dropping out and enrolling at St. John Vianney Minor Seminary. Thomas withdrew at his grandfathers urging to become a minister. After his graduation form St. John Vianney Minor Seminary he was accepted to Immaculate Conception Seminary. However, he once again withdrew, this time because of the racial events that had occurred while attending. At this time Holy Cross University began recruiting black students and he was accepted. Thomas worked hard to not only succeed and graduate, but to excel in his classes. He graduated ninth in his class at Holy Cross, in 1971. While at Holy Cross, Thomas met Ms. Kate Ambush and they later married. Thomas? only child (Jamal) was as a result of this marriage (Clarence and Kate later divorced in 1984. He has since married to Virgina Lamp, in 1987). Clarence Thomas decided that he wanted to advance his education and applied to Yale Law School. Again, Thomas applied to a university were a minority program was implemented just a few years earlier, and he was accepted.
Upon Thomas? graduation from Yale he went to work for John Danforth, the attorney general of Missouri. While working for the attorney general Thomas worked in the tax division. In 1977, Danforth was elected to the Senate and Thomas went to work for Monsanto Company as a corporate lawyer in the pesticide and agriculture division.
After a couple of years of work for Monsanto, Thomas became a legislative assistant on energy and environmental projects for Senator Danforth. During this time Thomas attracted much attention from the Reagan administration, which landed him a job as assistant secretary for civil rights in the Education Department.
President Reagan then promoted Thomas to head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. While at the EEOC, Thomas put the agency in position to enforce law. He also changed administration, policies, and implemented new procedures to improve the agency.
Thomas? success as head of the EEOC led to a President Bush appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. as a Judge in 1990. He only served 17 months before being nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bush after the retirement of Thurgood Marshall.
An appointment to the United States Supreme Court is for a life term. Therefore, it makes since that the process used to appoint the justices is complete and thorough. The appointment of a Supreme Court justice is made by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. There can be many reasons why a person is to be chosen as a justice to the highest court in the land. Presidents have appointed certain people because of their political ideologies, judicial philosophies, gender, religion, or race. The latter reason played a big role in the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson as the first black-American to serve on the court, retired in 1991. (Infoplease.com encyclopedia) Then President George Bush, felt pressure to replace this well known minority figure with another African-American. Marshall had served the court from 1967 to 1991, and many minority and political groups, including the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus felt that another minority should take his place. Clarence Thomas was the obvious choice for President Bush, but the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus, who tend to be more liberal, did not necessarily want Thomas to be nominated because of his conservative views. President Bush nominated Thomas for his legal qualifications, and backed his campaign on promising to only appoint individuals who will interpret the law, rather than create it. After the President made this decision, all that was needed was the Senate approval. However, it was not that easy.
Perhaps no other recent appointment to the Supreme Court was more controversial than that of Clarence Thomas. The Senate was ready to confirm Thomas? appointment when the Senate Judiciary Committee reopened the hearings to investigate charges of sexual harassment blamed on Thomas. A co-worker named Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment while they worked in two different federal agencies, the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). (MSN Encarta.com encyclopedia) Suddenly, many problems surrounded Thomas? bid for the Supreme Court. The timing of the accusations could not have been worse. Although the timing cast a question upon Anita Hill herself. If the supposed harassment took place in the 80’s, why was she just now coming forward? Ms. Hill?s answer was that she could not get herself to talk about the topic until she felt obligated to do so. In the Senate hearings Ms. Hill, a law professor, had this to say:
I thought that by saying ?no? and explaining my
reasons, my employer would abandon his social
suggestions. However, to my regret, in the
following few weeks he continued to ask me out on
several occasions. He pressed me to justify my
reasons for saying ?no? to him. These incidents
took place in his office or mine. They were in the
form of private conversations which would not have
been overheard by anyone else.(Hill Testimony Transcripts)
This statement makes the accusations his word versus hers. Thomas denied any wrong doing and called the televising of the Senate hearings a ??high-tech lynching.??(MSN Encarta.com Encyclopedia) Finally, the debates ended and Thomas? nomination was confirmed on October 15,1991. Thomas would win because the Senate did verify his appointment to the United States Supreme Court by the ?narrowest affirmation vote for a Supreme Court Justice in this Century.?(O?Connor & Sabato, 238) The vote was fifty-two in favor and forty-eight against. The Thomas-Hill scandal immediately made Thomas a well known and a closely watched justice. At first, people and the press watched his actions for other reasons than his race or judicial philosophy. More recently, however, people have come to notice his judicial decisions and philosophy more than his actions.
Although Thomas? appointment was amidst controversy, he is now stepping out on his own on his ideas. Thomas? has come a long way from his childhood that started in Pin Point and Savannah, Georgia. He is now a Justice on the highest court in the United States. Thomas? term has been brief compared to the tenure of his collogues, but in his mind he has unlocked the door to success, and is walking through it.