|Birth Day:||June 23, 1948|
|Birth Place:||Pin Point, Georgia, U.S., United States|
|#1||Jamal Adeen Thomas||Children||N/A||N/A||N/A|
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Clarence Thomas was born in 1948 in Pin Point, Georgia, a small, predominantly Black community near Savannah founded by freedmen after the Civil War. He was the second of three children born to M.C. Thomas, a farm worker, and Leola Williams, a domestic worker. They were descendants of American slaves, and the family spoke Gullah as a first language. Thomas's earliest known ancestors were slaves named Sandy and Peggy, who were born in the late 18th century and owned by wealthy planter Josiah Wilson of Liberty County, Georgia. M.C. left his family when Thomas was two years old. Though Thomas's mother worked hard, she was sometimes paid only pennies per day, had difficulty putting food on the table, and was forced to rely on charity. After a house fire left them homeless, Thomas and his younger brother Myers were taken to live in Savannah with his maternal grandparents, Myers and Christine (née Hargrove) Anderson.
Having spoken the Gullah language as a child, Thomas realized in college that he still sounded unpolished despite having been drilled in grammar at school, and he chose to major in English literature "to conquer the language." At Holy Cross, he was also a member of Alpha Sigma Nu and the Purple Key Society. Thomas graduated from Holy Cross in 1971 with an A.B. cum laude in English literature.
In 1971, Thomas married his college sweetheart, Kathy Grace Ambush. They had one child, Jamal Adeen. They separated in 1981 and divorced in 1984. In 1987, Thomas married Virginia Lamp, a lobbyist and aide to Republican Congressman Dick Armey. In 1997, they took in Thomas's then six-year-old great nephew, Mark Martin Jr., who had lived with his mother in Savannah public housing.
Thomas entered Yale Law School, from which he received a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in 1974, graduating in the middle of his class. Dean Louis Pollak had written in 1969 that the law school was then expanding its program of quotas for Black applicants, with up to 24 entering that year under a system that deemphasized grades and LSAT scores. Thomas indicates that the law firms he applied to after graduating from Yale did not take his Juris Doctor seriously; they assumed he obtained it because of affirmative action policies. According to Thomas, the law firms also "asked pointed questions, unsubtly suggesting that they doubted I was as smart as my grades indicated." He further reflected: “I peeled a fifteen-cent sticker off a package of cigars and stuck it on the frame of my law degree to remind myself of the mistake I'd made by going to Yale. I never did change my mind about its value.”
After graduation, Thomas studied for the Missouri bar at Saint Louis University School of Law. Thomas was admitted to the Missouri bar on September 13, 1974. From 1974 to 1977, he was an Assistant Attorney General of Missouri under State Attorney General John Danforth, a fellow alumnus at Yale. Thomas was the only African-American member of Danforth's staff. He first worked at the criminal appeals division of Danforth's office and moved on to the revenue and taxation division. Retrospectively, he considers the Assistant Attorney General position the best job he has ever had. When Danforth was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1976, Thomas left to become an attorney with the Monsanto Chemical Company in St. Louis, Missouri.
In 1975, when Thomas read Race and Economics by economist Thomas Sowell, he found an intellectual foundation for his philosophy. The book criticized social reforms by government and instead argued for individual action to overcome circumstances and adversity. He was also influenced by Ayn Rand, particularly The Fountainhead, and would later require his staffers to watch the 1949 film version of the novel. Thomas later said that novelist Richard Wright had been the most influential writer in his life; Wright's books Native Son and Black Boy "capture[d] a lot of the feelings that I had inside that you learn how to repress." Thomas acknowledges having "some very strong libertarian leanings."
In Doggett v. United States, the defendant had technically been a fugitive from the time he was indicted in 1980 until his arrest in 1988. The court held that the delay between indictment and arrest violated Doggett's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, finding that the government had been negligent in pursuing him and that he was unaware of the indictment. Thomas dissented, arguing that the purpose of the Speedy Trial Clause was to prevent "'undue and oppressive incarceration' and the 'anxiety and concern accompanying public accusation'" and that the case implicated neither. He cast the case instead as, "present[ing] the question [of] whether, independent of these core concerns, the Speedy Trial Clause protects an accused from two additional harms: (1) prejudice to his ability to defend himself caused by the passage of time; and (2) disruption of his life years after the alleged commission of his crime." Thomas dissented from the court's decision to, as he saw it, answer the former in the affirmative. Thomas wrote that dismissing the conviction "invites the Nation's judges to indulge in ad hoc and result-driven second guessing of the government's investigatory efforts. Our Constitution neither contemplates nor tolerates such a role."
In 1981, he joined the Reagan administration, serving first as Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education, and then, from 1982 to 1990, as chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Journalist Evan Thomas once opined that Thomas was "openly ambitious for higher office" during his tenure at the EEOC. As Chairman, he promoted a doctrine of self-reliance, and halted the usual EEOC approach of filing class-action discrimination lawsuits, instead pursuing acts of individual discrimination. He also asserted in 1984 that Black leaders were "watching the destruction of our race" as they "bitch, bitch, bitch" about Reagan instead of working with the Reagan administration to alleviate teenage pregnancy, unemployment and illiteracy.
On October 30, 1989, Thomas was nominated by President George H. W. Bush for a judgeship on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit following the departure of Robert Bork. This followed Thomas's initial protestations against becoming a judge. Thomas gained the support of other African Americans such as former transportation secretary William Coleman, but said that when meeting white Democratic staffers in the United States Senate, he was "struck by how easy it had become for sanctimonious whites to accuse a black man of not caring about civil rights."
Thomas's confirmation hearing was uneventful. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 6, 1990, and received his commission the same day. He developed warm relationships during his 19 months on the federal court, including fellow judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
When Associate Justice William Brennan retired from the Supreme Court in July 1990, Thomas was President George H. W. Bush's favorite among the five candidates on his shortlist for the position. Ultimately however, after consulting his advisors, the president nominated David Souter of the First Circuit Court of Appeals. A year later, Justice Thurgood Marshall, the only African-American justice on the Court, announced his retirement and President Bush nominated Thomas to replace him. In announcing his selection on July 1, 1991, Bush referred to Thomas as "best qualified at this time."
Thomas's formal confirmation hearings began on September 10, 1991. Thomas was reticent when answering senators' questions during the appointment process, recalling what had happened to Robert Bork when Bork expounded on his judicial philosophy during his confirmation hearings four years prior. Thomas's earlier writings had frequently referenced the legal theory of natural law; during his confirmation hearings Thomas limited himself to the statement that he regards natural law as a "philosophical background" to the Constitution.
After extensive debate, the Judiciary Committee voted 13–1 on September 27, 1991, to send the Thomas nomination to the full Senate without recommendation. A motion earlier in the day to give the nomination a favorable recommendation had failed 7–7. Hill's sexual harassment allegations against Thomas became public after the nomination had been reported out from the committee.
In addition to Hill and Thomas, the committee heard from several other witnesses over the course of three days, on October 11–13, 1991. A former colleague, Nancy Altman, who shared an office with Thomas at the Department of Education, testified that she heard virtually everything Thomas said over the course of two years, and never heard any sexist or offensive comment. Altman did not find it credible that Thomas could have engaged in the conduct alleged by Hill without any of the dozens of women he worked with noticing it. Reflecting the skepticism of some committee members, Senator Alan K. Simpson questioned at one point why Hill met, dined with, and spoke by phone with Thomas on various occasions after they no longer worked together.
Following testimony concerning sexual harassment allegations, the Senate, on October 15, 1991, voted to confirm Thomas as an associate justice of the Supreme Court by a 52–48 vote. In all, Thomas won with the support of 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats, while 46 Democrats and two Republicans voted to reject his nomination.
Thomas voted most frequently with Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia in his early tenure on the Supreme Court. On average, from 1994 to 2004, Scalia and Thomas had an 87% voting alignment, the highest on the court, followed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter (86%). Scalia and Thomas's agreement rate peaked in 1996, at 98%. By 2004, however, other pairs of justices were observed to be more closely aligned than Scalia and Thomas.
From 1994 to 2004, on average, Thomas was the third most frequent dissenter on the court, behind Stevens and Scalia. Four other justices dissented as frequently in 2007. Three other justices dissented as frequently in 2006. One other justice dissented as frequently in 2005.
Since 1999, Thomas and his wife have traveled across the U.S. in a motorcoach between Court terms.
In 2000, he told a group of high school students that "if you wait long enough, someone will ask your question." Although he rarely speaks from the bench, Thomas has acknowledged that sometimes, during oral arguments, he will pass notes to his friend and colleague Justice Stephen Breyer, who then asks questions on behalf of Thomas.
Thomas is not the first quiet justice. In the 1970s and 1980s, Justices William J. Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, and Harry Blackmun generally were quiet; however, the silence of Thomas stood out in the 1990s as the other eight justices engaged in active questioning. The New York Times' Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak has called it a "pity" that Thomas does not ask questions, saying that he has a "distinctive legal philosophy and a background entirely different from that of any other justice" and that those he asked in the 2001 and 2002 terms were "mostly good questions, brisk and pointed." Conversely, Jeffrey Toobin, writing in The New Yorker, calls the silence of Thomas "disgraceful" behavior that has "gone from curious to bizarre to downright embarrassing, for himself and for the institution he represents".
By 2002, Thomas was the second most likely among the nine justices to uphold free speech claims (tied with David Souter). He has voted in favor of First Amendment claims in cases involving a wide variety of issues, including pornography, campaign contributions, political leafleting, religious speech, and commercial speech.
In 2005, while Assistant Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School, Amy Coney Barrett wrote that Thomas supports statutory stare decisis. Her cited examples include Thomas's concurring opinion in Fogerty v. Fantasy, 510 U.S. 517 (1994).
In 2006, Thomas had a 48% favorable, 36% unfavorable rating, according to Rasmussen Reports.
Thomas is well known for his reticence during oral argument. Beginning when he asked a question during a death penalty case on February 22, 2006, Thomas did not ask another question from the bench for more than ten years, finally asking a question on February 29, 2016, about a response to a question regarding whether persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence should be barred permanently from firearm possession. He also had a nearly seven-year streak of not speaking at all in any context, finally breaking that silence on January 14, 2013, when he, a Yale Law graduate, was understood to have joked either that a law degree from Yale or from Harvard may be proof of incompetence. Thomas took a more active role in questioning when the Supreme Court shifted to holding teleconferenced arguments in May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; prior to that, he spoke in 32 of the roughly 2,400 arguments since 1991.
Throughout his testimony, Thomas defended his right to privacy. He made it clear that he was not going to put his personal life on display for public consumption, permit the committee (or anyone else) to probe his private life, or describe discussions that he may have had with others about his private life. The committee accepted his right to do so. In 2007, Thomas wrote My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir, in which he addressed Anita Hill's allegations and the caustic confirmation hearing.
Thomas is associated with the more conservative side of the Court. Thomas has rarely given media interviews during his time on the court. He said in 2007: "One of the reasons I don't do media interviews is, in the past, the media often has its own script." In 2007, Thomas received a $1.5 million advance for writing his memoir, My Grandfather's Son, which became a bestseller. He was the subject of the 2020 documentary film Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in his Own Words.
As of 2007, Thomas was the justice most willing to exercise judicial review of federal statutes, but among the least likely to overturn state statutes. According to a The New York Times editorial, "from 1994 to 2005 ... Justice Thomas voted to overturn federal laws in 34 cases and Justice Scalia in 31, compared with just 15 for Justice Stephen Breyer."
In November 2007, Thomas told an audience at Hillsdale College: "My colleagues should shut up!" He later explained, "I don't think that for judging, and for what we are doing, all those questions are necessary." According to Amber Porter of ABC News, one of the most notable examples of a rare instance in which Thomas asked a question was in 2002 during oral arguments for Virginia v. Black, when he expressed concern to Michael Dreeben, who had been speaking on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, that he was "actually understating the symbolism ... and the effect of ... the burning cross" and its use as a symbol of the "reign of terror" of "100 years of lynching and activity in the South by the Knights of Camellia ... and the Ku Klux Klan".
Thomas was reconciled to the Catholic Church in the mid-1990s. In his 2007 autobiography, he criticized the church for its failure to grapple with racism in the 1960s during the civil rights movement, saying it was not so "adamant about ending racism then as it is about ending abortion now". Thomas is (as of 2019) one of 14 practicing Catholic justices in the Court's history, of 114 justices total, and one of six currently serving (along with Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, John Roberts, Sonia Sotomayor and Amy Coney Barrett).
In the 2009 Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder case, Thomas was the sole dissenter, voting in favor of throwing out Section Five of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Section Five requires states with a history of racial voter discrimination—mostly states from the old South—to get Justice Department clearance when revising election procedures. Although Congress had reauthorized Section Five in 2006 for another 25 years, Thomas said the law was no longer necessary, pointing out that the rate of black voting in seven Section Five states was higher than the national average. Thomas said "the violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this court to uphold it no longer remains." He again took this position in Shelby County v. Holder, voting with the majority and concurring with the reasoning which struck down Section Five.
Since 2010, Thomas has dissented from denial of certiorari in several Second Amendment cases. He would have voted to grant certiorari in Friedman v. City of Highland Park (2015), which upheld bans on certain semi-automatic rifles, Jackson v. San Francisco (2014), which upheld trigger lock ordnances similar to those struck down in Heller, Peruta v. San Diego County (2016), which upheld restrictive concealed carry licensing in California, and Silvester v. Becerra (2017), which upheld waiting periods for firearm purchasers who have already passed background checks and already own firearms. He was joined by Justice Scalia in the former two, and by Justice Gorsuch in Peruta.
Thomas's second wife remained active in conservative politics, serving as a consultant to the Heritage Foundation, and as founder and president of Liberty Central. In 2011, she stepped down from Liberty Central to open a conservative lobbying firm, touting her "experience and connections", meeting with newly elected Republican congressmen and describing herself as an "ambassador to the tea party". Also in 2011, 74 Democratic members of the House of Representatives wrote that Thomas should recuse himself on cases regarding the Affordable Care Act, due to "appearance of a conflict of interest" based on the work of his wife.
In January 2011, the liberal advocacy group Common Cause reported that between 2003 and 2007 Thomas failed to disclose $686,589 in income earned by his wife from the Heritage Foundation, instead reporting "none" where "spousal noninvestment income" would be reported on his Supreme Court financial disclosure forms. The following week, Thomas stated that the disclosure of his wife's income had been "inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions". Thomas amended reports going back to 1989.
In 2016, Moira Smith, a lawyer, claimed that Thomas groped her at a dinner party in 1999, when she was a Truman Foundation scholar. Thomas called the allegation "preposterous".
In a 2017 paper in Northwestern University Law Review, RonNell Andersen Jones and Aaron L. Nielson argued that while asking few questions, "in many ways, [Thomas] is a model questioner."
In December 2018, Thomas wrote a dissent when the Supreme Court voted against hearing cases brought by the states of Louisiana and Kansas to deny Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood. Justices Alito and Gorsuch joined Thomas's dissent, arguing that the Supreme Court was “abdicating its judicial duty.”
In February 2019, Thomas joined with three of the court's other conservative justices voting to reject a stay to temporarily block a law restricting abortion in Louisiana. The law that the court temporarily stayed, in a 5–4 decision, would require that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges in a hospital.
In October 2020, Clarence Thomas joined the other justices in denying an appeal from Kim Davis, a county clerk who refused to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but he wrote a separate opinion re-iterating his dissent from the Obergefell v. Hodges decision and expressing his belief that the ruling was wrongly decided.
Currently, Clarence Thomas is 73 years, 2 months and 27 days old. Clarence Thomas will celebrate 74th birthday on a Thursday 23rd of June 2022.
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