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Clarence Thomas is the second African-American justice to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. He was appointed in 1991 and leans conservative.
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Clarence Thomas was born on June 23, 1948, in Pin Point, Georgia. He served in the administrations of Reagan and George H.W. Bush. The retirement of African-American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall led George H.W. Bush to nominate Thomas as his replacement and he was narrowly confirmed in 1991. Thomas is a conservative justice and has come down against Roe v. Wade and school desegregation.
"Perhaps some are confused because they have stereotypes of how blacks should be and I respectfully decline, as I did in my youth, to sacrifice who I am for who they think I should be."
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas comes from a humble background. He knew what it was like to be cold and to be hungry. He grew up in the small African-American community of Pin Point, Georgia, with his older sister Emma Mae and younger brother Myers Lee. His father disappeared early on in his life, and the family divided even further when he was nine years old. Struggling financially, his mother sent him and his brother to live with her father and stepmother in nearby Savannah.
Now a conservative and sometimes controversial justice, Thomas first had other ambitions. His grandfather encouraged him to pursue a religious life. During high school, Thomas decided to transfer to St. John Vianney Minor Seminary, a first step to becoming a Catholic priest. He graduated in 1967 and then continued to his studies after Immaculate Conception Seminary in Missouri.
The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 proved to be a turning point for Thomas. He left the seminary after overhearing a fellow student making fun of King's death. Moving north, Thomas went to Holy Cross College, in Massachusetts, where he studied English. He became active in many social causes there, including protesting the Vietnam War and campaigning for civil rights. Thomas also helped establish the Black Student Union there. After college, he went to Yale University Law School where his views started to become more conservative.
Thomas returned to the South to work as an assistant to Missouri Attorney General John Danforth after earning his degree. After several years as a lawyer for the agricultural giant Mansanto, He later moved to Washington where he eventually received several appointments from President Ronald Reagan. His most prominent post was as the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1982. Another president, George H.W. Bush, gave Thomas his first and only judgeship, nominating him to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush tapped Thomas to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Thorgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the court. The two men could not have been more different. Marshall was widely known as a liberal jurist and for his civil rights work before taking the bench. Critics, on the other hand, attacked Thomas for his conservative views. Some also thought that he had too little experience as a judge.
During his confirmation hearings, Thomas remained quiet on several key issues, including abortion rights. It was an allegation of sexual harassment that almost cost him the post.
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