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Clarence Thomas and the Segregationist Mississippi Sheriff

Bob Tyrrell discusses a recent speech by Thomas:

I heard [Thomas] speak the other day at the portrait unveiling for Judge Lawrence Silberman. There were other speakers, all very distinguished and eloquent; but none spoke so eloquently and learnedly as this black justice, who had been raised in poverty in Sheriff Rainey's rural South. Contrary to his detractors he has a first-rate mind, a fine sense of the law and character of the finest mettle. He thinks for himself. At Yale Law School, his thoughts followed a radical course. As life went on, he adopted conservative principles. For exercising his freedom of thought, he has been abominated by the career civil rights mountebanks. Their tireless public contempt for him has made his life a trial.

Listening to him the other day at the courthouse, it occurred to me that he is too sensitive a man not to be wounded by their slanders, but he remains cheerful and unbowed. His laugh is one of the most musical instruments in Washington. I know of no better-rounded man than Thomas.

America is moving toward the colorblind free society that Martin Luther King Jr. envisaged, and Sheriff Rainey execrated. Jesse Jackson denounces black conservatives for arriving at positions that blacks are not supposed to take. Like the segregationists of yore, Jackson apparently believes that blacks should "know their place." The higher they climb in American life, the more the career civil rights mountebanks will make them suffer. Jackson is not as evil a man as Rainey, but he is not a very good man -- and it is increasingly apparent that he is not a friend of civil rights. Clarence Thomas is.

Supreme Discomfort

This Washington Post article is long, thorough, and balanced.  It looks at the life and career of Justice Thomas, primarily focusing on the dismaying contempt shown towards him by many in the black community.  Definitely worth a read. 

Authors of the above article discuss their piece with readers

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Series

This is a thorough examination of Thomas's life and career, complete with a photo album not available elsewhere. Written by Ken Foskett, this series is more fair and balanced than the vast majority of Thomas coverage in the media. Definitely worth reading.  UPDATE: The link has disappeared.  Unfortunately, I can't find this excellent series elsewhere.  But the author has apparently written a forthcoming book on Thomas.  See the Books page. 

Edith Efron -- Native Son: Why A Black Supreme Court Justice Has No Rights A White Man Need Respect

This has to be one of the best articles ever written on Thomas. And that is according to Thomas himself.

Virginia Postrel gives the following account (see of what Thomas said to her after his AEI speech in February 2001:

"After his speech at the American Enterprise Institute's banquet in February, I introduced myself to Clarence Thomas. His face lit up when he heard my affiliation with Reason, asking whether I was the woman who had written the article about him. No, I said, Edith Efron wrote it. I was the editor who published it (and, I didn't add, typed it). He then told me what he had told several mutual friends since 1992: that Edith had been the only person to understand what was going through his mind during the hearings that made him a household name.

"Edith knew exactly what Thomas was thinking not because she was a well-sourced reporter -- she had never met Thomas and didn't talk to any insiders about the hearings -- but because she paid attention to history and to details. Everything she wrote had a Big Idea, an integrated concept that made sense of a welter of facts. Structure, she believed, was everything, and she wasn't happy until she had found the perfect synthesis. She was uncannily perceptive.

"In this case, she knew that Thomas' favorite book was Richard Wright's Native Son, she reread the book for the first time in 50 years, and the rest followed. 'One finds many things relevant to Thomas and to his roots and his lifelong concerns in this book,' she wrote. 'But in this particular context, one finds one crucial thing -- his limits. The one thing Thomas would not, could not, permit, whatever else might be at stake, the one stereotype that it would be downright dangerous to paste on him, leaps out from those pages.'

"From that insight, she created a sympathetic and searing portrait that turned Thomas the symbol back into Thomas the man. Her article was so powerful that it overcame its political incorrectness to be named a finalist for a National Magazine Award, the magazine world's highest honor."

A powerful article. Read it.

Juan Williams -- A Question of Fairness

In this lengthy profile of Justice Thomas, Williams paints Thomas as a typical "lonely" and "angry" middle-class black, and as a follower of Booker T. Washington and Malcolm X. Williams also recounts how his own Washington Post profile of Thomas early in the 80s brought Thomas to the Reagan administration's attention. The profile examines Thomas's biography and his career in government service. It concludes with this now-familiar painful anecdote about Thomas's induction into his second term as head of EEOC:

"It's a proud moment for me to stand here," he [Brad Reynolds] said, "because Clarence Thomas is the epitome of the right kind of affirmative action working the right way."

Clarence Thomas flinched. Some of his aides looked down and shook their heads. After all Thomas had been through in defense of the Administration position on civil rights, Reynolds had implicitly dismissed him as an affirmative-action hire. And, worse, Reynolds had thought it a compliment. Thomas showed a look of cold hurt -- a look of disgust. He folded his arms across his chest and looked away from Reynolds. By the time Meese had said a few words and Thurmond had sworn him in, an uneasy smile had returned to Thomas's face. A few days later, when I asked about his reaction to Reynolds's comment, Thomas waved his hand, as if swatting away the memory. "I can't pay no attention to Brad," he said.

Paul Weyrich -- The Emergence of Clarence Thomas

A powerful article in support of Justice Thomas. Weyrich concludes:

"Thomas is a model for anyone who has to endure false criticism and the demands of the same sort of crowd which in Christ's time shouted "Give us Barabbas." Even among those whom he considers close friends, Thomas never lets his critics frame how he looks at things. He knows God and he lets God determine the framework for his overall thinking. Beyond that, Thomas sticks to the Constitution and the minds of those who framed it, as he labors through the myriad of issues which those who wrote the Constitution could never have imagined. He has every right to be bitter, but he is anything but bitter. The reason his critics get ever more angry is because it is beginning to dawn on them that they have had no effect on Thomas.

"Let those who have to face the viciousness of unfair attack look to the example of Clarence Thomas. He has taught us that, even in this demented society, steady, solid hard work will eventually win recognition and respect. True, his detractors will never stop. But the important thing is that he has never given them the satisfaction of winning. Clarence Thomas has stayed on his own course, and it is beginning to pay off big time."

David Horowitz -- The Lynching of Clarence Thomas

In this passage excerpted from Horowitz's pamphlet "Hillary Clinton and the Racial Left," Horowitz excoriates the feminist enemies of Thomas:

"Has there ever been a more reprehensible witch-hunt in American public life than the one organized by feminist leaders who then emerged as vocal defenders of the White House lecher? Was there ever a more sordid betrayal of common decency than this collective defamation -- for which no apology has or ever will be given?

". . . Thomas' real crime, as everybody knew but was too intimidated by the hysteria to confirm at the time, was his commitment to constitutional principles they hated."

Jim Wooten -- Clarence Thomas is a hero whose only 'offense' is conservatism

A strong defense of Thomas. Wooten, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, says:

"Thomas is now what John Lewis was then, a pioneer who stood against the tide. That's one of the reasons historians will recognize his greatness. His place will be secured, however, by his opinions as a Supreme Court justice, which are clear, consistent and scholarly.

"Liberals and the black political establishment can falsely deny Thomas his due now, but the day will come when monuments are erected -- because he is an important historical figure. And, too, it will help assuage our collective guilt at the treatment of him."

The Education of Clarence Thomas

This is overall a fairly good piece on Thomas's life and jurisprudence. I found this tidbit interesting:

"During a judicial conference in May, Justice Anthony Kennedy described Thomas as the justice the other eight turn to when they are unclear about some factual detail in the cases before them. 'Clarence has a photographic memory of the record,' Kennedy said glowingly."

One thing to watch out for -- Mauro gives too much credence to Thomas's critics. For example, Mauro notes that Thomas has said his favorite opinion was Norfolk & Western Railway Co. v. Hiles, which involved a rail worker's injury complaint against a railroad. Mauro tracks down the injured worker and other critics of Thomas, who (as could be expected) lambaste Thomas for his heartlessness (never mind what the law actually said). Mauro even says this:

"During the hearings over his nomination to replace Thurgood Marshall, Thomas made the oft-repeated observation that when he saw prisoners being taken to jail, he thought, 'There but for the grace of God go I.' But in his 10 years on the bench, he has almost never voted in favor of the rights of prisoners.

"How can a justice who cries in public and mentors poor children point with pride to a decision that adds to the suffering of injured railroad workers?"

A ridiculous question, but here is the answer: Because Thomas is a judge who thinks that he should follow the law, rather than doing whatever he darn well pleases as a legislator from the bench. Somehow, liberals can never grasp the distinction; they think that if a judge rules for one side, it can only be because he likes that side more than the other.

Justice Thomas Takes on His Critics

A mostly fair piece on Justice Thomas, written in 1998 by Washington Post reporter Joan Biskupic. It ends with this stirring passage:

Friends say Thomas also has been reenergized by the great-nephew that he and his wife, Virginia, have adopted. "It's given him a new outlook," Gray said. "The justice is younger in spirit and everything else."

"You can hear these 6-year-old feet going all over the place," Thomas told one group. And he observed that he is exactly the same age 50 that his grandfather was when he took in 8-year-old Clarence Thomas because his mother couldn't support him and his siblings.

"I didn't realize my grandfather was such a young man then," Thomas quipped before a conference of Headway Magazine, a journal for black conservatives. As is the case when Thomas speaks, that audience Sept. 12 was rapt. When he had trouble composing himself as he recalled his friend Gil Hardy, who died in a freak boating accident in 1989, people in the audience whispered, "Take your time."

Then, someone shouted out, "We love you, Justice Thomas." And the crowd rose to its feet.

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

A short op-ed piece about the controversy over Thomas's speech to an eighth-grade graduation class. Cissell asks why there was such a controversy:

"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."

For Clarence Thomas, Another Invitation and Another Flap

This piece examines some of the hysterial opposition that Justice Thomas has aroused when invited to make public speeches. After Thomas was invited to speak to the largely-black National Bar Association, a federal district judge (!) actually had this to say: "I would not be as upset with him if he were white. The position that Clarence Thomas filled on the Supreme Court is a black seat." Imagine the same language coming from a white person, and the racism becomes obvious. Amazing that people still think in such stereotypical terms.