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The Supreme Court: Justice Clarence Thomas Essay (Biography)

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Updated: Jun 3rd, 2022

Early life – Hometown and Family

Born on June 23, 1948, in Georgia, Clarence Thomas is one of the most notable black figures in the U.S. Justice system. Thomas grew up in Pin Point, which is a small, underprivileged region located south of Savannah, a land that previously served as slave plantation. His father deserted him when he was only two years old (Cox 10-19). Thomas spent a better part of his childhood in poverty. He lived in an area that lacked many critical infrastructures such as transport and sewage systems.

Most residents of Pin Point lived in misery and only managed to earn a few cents each day doing labor-intensive work. Thomas’s mother, Leola, did everything within her ability to ensure that her children never lacked. She was a domestic worker who also relied on charities from the church to sustain her children. When Thomas was seven, her mother opted to remarry after her wooden dwelling caught fire and burned to the ground (Clarence Thomas par. 2).

As Leola could not support the two boys adequately, she decided to take them to their grandparents. His grandfather, Myers Anderson, was an upright person who believed in the value of hard work. Anderson was quite autonomous and innovative. He used the back of his car as his premises, where he sold his wares. Thomas and his brother were lucky to live with their grandfather who was also a deeply religious man.

Anderson was a devoted Catholic and Democrat who worked hard to instill in the two young boys the values of financial independence and self-control, including the moral capacity to discern right from wrong (Vanzo par. 2). Clarence Thomas (3) further notes that life with his grandfather was better in many ways because it introduced him to better days. Living with his grandfather meant that he could have meals on a regular basis. Besides, he could also involve himself in indoor plumbing work.

Most outstandingly, Anderson instructed his grandsons to appreciate the value of a good education. The two boys quickly appreciated the importance of hard work and could often help their grandfather in various ways. When Thomas was free, he always visited the neighboring Carnegie library because the Savannah Public Library was out of bounds for the black community at the time.

Education and Jobs

When Thomas was young, he had a strong desire to join the priesthood. In a bid to realize that aspiration, he joined a black parochial high school. He stayed for about two years at the institution before joining a different one called St. John Vianney Minor Seminary. Although

Thomas maintained exemplary performance in his education, he had a difficult time coping with his peers because he was the only African American pupil in his class (Vanzo par. 3-5). Racial intolerance had not ended for Thomas because when he enrolled in the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Missouri in 1967, he also faced the same dilemma. On one day, a classmate irritated him when he celebrated the killing of Martin Luther King Jr. That conduct by the classmate prompted him to leave the seminary.

Thomas was also lucky in 1968 because he managed to secure a position with an enrollment plan targeting minorities in the region. The Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts had funded the enrollment plan. While Thomas was at the institution, he excelled in many ways. For instance, he participated in a number of community activist organizations and helped to establish the Black Student Union (Ondaatje 28).

At the same time, he managed to maintain an impressive academic record, graduating among the best students of his class in 1971. He managed to graduate with an honors degree in English. Thomas was also lucky to qualify for a position in another program in support of qualified minorities, which enabled him to join Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut. To elude labeling from other students, Thomas opted to take a business-oriented law course as opposed to constitutional and civil rights specialties (Vanzo par. 3-5).

While Thomas was at Yale, he also performed exceptionally well academically, managing to graduate with a J.D. Degree in 1974. In his first job, he worked as an assistant in the office of attorney general of the state of Missouri from 1974 to 1977 (Clarence Thomas: Biographical Data par. 1-5). His main task while serving in this position was to represent the Lincoln University. This was a predominantly black institution run by several arms of the government.

For instance, the Department of Revenue and the State Tax Commission played a leading role in managing the institution. After working for some time as an assistant attorney general, Thomas decided to work as a legal representative for the Monsanto Company, a position he held for two years, between 1977 and 1979. This position required him to supervise a number of federal regulations, where he handled bankruptcy, antitrust and product liability issues (Clarence Thomas Eighth Chairman of the EEOC par. 1-4).

Government Positions

Although Thomas started from very humble beginnings, he has become one of the most notable figures in the American justice system. Through hard work and a bit of fate, he has managed to make remarkable achievements, which have enabled him to hold several government positions.

For instance, he is the second African- American to work at the High Court, a position that has enabled him to establish himself as a conservative (Clarence Thomas par. 1). As noted earlier, Thomas’s first job was that of an assistant attorney general of the state of Missouri. This means that he worked as Senator John Danforth’s assistant. After holding that position for a while, he worked for two years as a legal representative for a private company.

Thomas also served in the U.S. Department of Education for nearly one year (between 1981 and 1982) where he worked as the assistant secretary for civil rights. President Reagan appointed him to this position partly because his political views were conformist. After about one year, the Reagan administration also offered him the chairperson position in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In 1990, President Bush selected him to become one of the judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The president also recommended him for the post of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Many minority groups disapproved his nomination claiming that his opinions regarding civil rights were conventional. However, Thomas managed to survive several days of probing from the Senate Judiciary Committee dominated by the Democrats. Thomas has been working in this position since 1991 (Clarence Thomas Eighth Chairman of the EEOC par. 1-4).

Works Cited

“Clarence Thomas Eighth Chairman of the EEOC, May 6, 1982 – March 8, 1990.” EEOC. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d. Web.

“Clarence Thomas.” Oyez. International Chicago-Kent College of Law, 6 Oct. 2013. Web.

“Clarence Thomas: Biographical Data.” law.cornell. Legal Information Institute, n.d. Web.

Cox, Vicki. Clarence Thomas. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print.

Ondaatje, Michael. Black Conservative Intellectuals in Modern America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. Print.

Vanzo, John P. Clarence Thomas (b. 1948). 26 Aug. 2013. Web.

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