New Visions Commentary
The National Leadership Network of Conservative African-Americans




Justice Clarence Thomas:
He's Not Going Away, No Matter How Hard His Critics Pray



by Jackie Cissell



A New Visions Commentary paper published July 1996 by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web http://www.nationalcenter.org. Reprints permitted provided source is credited.




Justice Clarence Thomas is in the news again. The interest this time is not to call attention to a decision he helped reach on the high court or an interview on his experience on the Supreme Court. Nor was he accused of embezzlement or rape.

Thomas was invited to speak to the eighth-grade graduating class of a middle school in Landover, Maryland.

The invitation came as a result of a field trip the eighth-grade class took to see Thomas. The children and their parents were especially impressed with the Justice, who spent nearly two hours with the students from the predominantly black school. As a matter of fact, they were so impressed that they asked him to speak at their graduation.

No one could have predicted the storm this would generate. School officials revoked the invitation and joined in criticizing Thomas. The parents and children rallied to get Thomas reinvited and succeeded.

What on earth would the Justice say to these children that would cause the Left such distress? Thomas speaks of his life, his childhood, his college years and his rise to the highest court in the land. He speaks of endurance and hard work, the very thing kids need to hear to encourage them to succeed.

Clarence Thomas was born June 23, 1948, in Pinpoint, Georgia, a town in the marshes near Savannah. He was born with the assistance of a midwife, in a small wood-frame house with no indoor plumbing. His family shared an outhouse with several neighbors. The residents of that community carried water in buckets from a common pump.

Young Clarence started the first grade at the segregated Haven Home School in 1954, the same year the Supreme Court declared segregated education unconstitutional in Brown vs. Board of Education. In the middle of the school year, Clarence and his brother Myers moved to Savannah to live with their mother.

They lived in one room of a tenement with a common kitchen and common toilet outside. In the summer of 1955, Clarence and his brother moved again to live with their maternal grandparents, Myers and Christine Anderson, who had an ice delivery and fuel oil business. Clarence was surrounded by segregation. Public restrooms, lunch counters, water fountains, libraries and schools were segregated.

His grandparents were hard-working people who believed and taught Clarence and his brother that if you don't work, you don't eat. He wanted them to be self-sufficient, so he prepared them to survive in a hostile, segregated world where the odds seemed so heavily stacked against them.

At local NAACP meetings, his grandfather prodded Clarence to read aloud his high grades to show that blacks could excel as well as whites.

Eventually, Clarence attended Yale Law School. After working as an assistant to the Missouri Attorney General and in other positions, he became chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1981 under the Reagan Administration. He now sits on the United States Supreme Court.

Brian Jones, friend of Thomas and executive director of the Center for New Black Leadership in Washington, D.C., recalled his first meeting with Thomas. As a young law student, he called Thomas for some advice. Thomas invited the student to a meeting that lasted two hours, giving him advice on "all types of things."

It is not uncommon for Thomas to mentor young black law students. He now carries on this tradition by meeting with many students from collegians down to eighth-graders.

Of what is the Left so terrified? If Thomas is indeed alienated from the black community as the good professor has said, then, what's the problem?

Maybe in spite of their efforts trying to make Thomas some kind of monster, people still hear him and identify with his background. His whole life has been a lesson in overcoming poverty and discrimination. It seems the more Thomas speaks the more he encourages the audience.

The assassination of his character has not worked. It was the parents and the children who wanted Thomas, despite the arm-twisting from the Left, and the parents prevailed.

The fact of the matter is this: As much as they hate it, Clarence Thomas is black and conservative. He sits on the Supreme Court. He has a lifetime appointment.

There is nothing they can do about it.

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Jackie Cissell is a national Advisory Council member of the African-American leadership group Project 21 and is Director of Social and Cultural Studies for the Indiana Family Institute.


Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.


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