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Clarence Thomas Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

Here is a look at the life of US Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.

Personal

Birth date: June 23, 1948

Birth place: Pin Point, Georgia

Birth name: Clarence Thomas

Father: M.C. Thomas, a farm worker

Mother: Leola (Anderson) Thomas

Marriages: Virginia (Lamp) Thomas (May 30, 1987-present); Kathy (Ambush) Thomas (1971-1984, divorced)

Children: with Kathy (Ambush) Thomas: Jamal, 1973

Education: Holy Cross College, A.B., 1971; Yale Law School, J.D., 1974

Religion: Roman Catholic

Other Facts

Grew up in poverty in segregated Georgia.

Raised by his maternal grandparents as a devout Catholic, and was sent to an all-black Catholic school run by nuns.

Thomas was a beneficiary of Yale’s affirmative action policy, which offered opportunities to minority students.

Served on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Thomas called his confirmation hearings “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves.”

Is considered a conservative justice, has often opposed affirmative action, and tends to vote with other conservative justices.

Timeline

1974-1977 – Assistant Attorney General of Missouri.

1977-1979Attorney for Monsanto Corporation in St. Louis, Missouri.

1979-1981 Legislative Assistant to Senator John C. Danforth.

1981-1982 Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education.

1982-1990 – Chairman of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

1990-1991 – Judge for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

July 1, 1991 – Nominated to the Supreme Court by President George H. W. Bush to fill the seat of retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall.

July 10, 1991 – Jesse Jackson speaks out against Thomas’s nomination, stating that Thomas has disrespected the leadership heritage of the NAACP.

July 31, 1991 – The NAACP releases a statement opposing Thomas’s appointment to the Supreme Court, stating that “his judicial philosophy is simply inconsistent with the historical positions taken by the NAACP.”

September 10, 1991 – Confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee begin.

October 6, 1991 – Reports surface two days before the scheduled Senate vote on Thomas’s confirmation that law professor Anita Hill has made allegations of sexual harassment against Thomas. The Senate vote is delayed for a week after Thomas asks for time to clear his name and to bolster support for his nomination.

October 11, 1991 – Hill testifies that Thomas sexually harassed her while she worked with him at the Education Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hill says Thomas frequently asked her out on dates and described his sexual interests to her. Thomas denies the allegations during his testimony.

October 15, 1991 – The US Senate confirms Clarence Thomas by the narrowest margin in the 20th century: 52 to 48.

October 23, 1991 – Sworn in as associate justice of the Supreme Court.

June 2003 Thomas dissents in the Court’s decision to uphold affirmative action, calls it a “cruel farce” that leaves blacks with a stigma suggesting they only succeeded because of their skin color.

January 15, 2013 – Thomas speaks from the bench for the first time in nearly seven years by making a joke about the competence of Yale lawyers when compared to their Harvard colleagues.

February 2014 – In a speech at Palm Beach Atlantic University, Thomas says, “The worst I have been treated was by northern liberal elites. The absolute worst I have ever been treated. The worst things that have been done to me, the worst things that have been said about me, are by northern liberal elites, not by the people of Savannah, Georgia.”

February 29, 2016 – For the first time in 10 years, Thomas asks a question during oral arguments in Voisine v. United States. In the case deciding whether a prior misdemeanor domestic assault conviction would block the plaintiffs from possessing a firearm, Thomas asks, “This is a misdemeanor violation. It suspends a constitutional right. Can you give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?”

October 7, 2016 – Moira Smith posts on her now deactivated Facebook account that Thomas groped her at a dinner party in 1999. In a statement to the National Law Journal Thomas remarks, “This claim is preposterous and it never happened.”

February 19, 2019 – Thomas calls for reconsideration of a landmark First Amendment ruling in an opinion regarding the application of state libel laws to public figures, Katherine Mae McKee v. William H. Cosby, Jr.

March 20, 2019 – Thomas asks a question for the first time in three years during arguments in Flowers v. Mississippi, a case that centers on a prosecutor with a history of discriminating against black jurors during murder trials for suspect Curtis Flowers. Thomas, at the very end of the hourlong hearing, asks Flowers’ trial attorney, “Ms. Johnson, would you be kind enough to tell me whether or not you exercised any peremptories … were any peremptories exercised by the defendant?”

May 28, 2019 – Thomas writes a 20-page agreement to the Indiana abortion law “warning his colleagues of the potential that abortion could become a ‘tool of eugenic manipulation.'”

June 3, 2019 – Thomas dismisses a rumor that he is retiring.

May 2020 – Thomas asks more questions during the court’s new coronavirus pandemic-prompted remote oral arguments than he has asked for more than a decade. In a line of hypothetical questioning during oral arguments on the Electoral College, Thomas brings up the hobbit from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in a case that would decide whether states can bind presidential electors to vote for the state’s popular-vote winner.

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