Associate Justice Clarence Thomas
Born in Pin Point, Georgia, in 1948, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas has served on the United States Supreme Court since 1991. He is the longest-serving member of the current court, and with Justice Stephen Breyer's 2022 retirement became the court's oldest justice.
A devout Catholic, Justice Thomas originally set out to join the priesthood when he reached college age. In 1967, he became the first Black student admitted to St. John Vianney Minor Conception Seminary. However, he struggled with the church's passive stance on racism and civil rights.
He left the seminary in 1968 to pursue a bachelor's degree in English literature at Holy Cross College, where he graduated ninth in his class. He was a member of Alpha Sigma Nu and the Purple Key Society. He then attended Yale Law School, where he earned his J.D. in 1974.
Law Practice and Government Service
Justice Thomas was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 1974. With the exception of a two-year stint as an attorney in Monsanto's pesticide and agriculture division, his legal career focused on government work.
He served in several state and federal government positions, including:
- Attorney General of Missouri (1974-77)
- Legislative assistant to Senator John C. Danforth of Missouri (1979-81)
- Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education (1981-82)
- Chairman for the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1982-90)
In the 1990s, Thomas moved on to judicial positions.
President George H.W. Bush appointed Thomas to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1990. Just a year later, President Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court. His confirmation hearings in the Senate took a dramatic turn when Anita Hill, a former EEOC employee, accused him of sexually harassing her. Thomas denied the allegations, and the Senate confirmed him by a narrow 52-48 vote.
Justice Thomas is known for his quiet, stoic demeanor on the bench. He rarely asks questions during oral arguments, but his conservative approach to the law has certainly influenced the court over the last three decades.
He wrote the majority opinion in Good News Club v. Milford Central School, which held that a public school that refused to allow a religious club to meet in its facilities violated the First Amendment. Justice Thomas was also an essential contributor in the 2008 landmark gun control decision District of Columbia v. Heller and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which made huge changes to campaign finance regulations.
When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, Justice Thomas's concurring opinion raised a lot of questions about what the future holds for substantive due process cases. In his concurrence, he advocated for an end to all "unenumerated rights" granted under the 14th Amendment's substantive due process clause. This includes cases that address the right to birth control, same-sex marriage, and interracial marriage. However, it is unclear whether any other current justices share this view.
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