In the annals of American history, this name has risen to the forefront of noted Supreme Court Justices and has become synonymous with the ideals and philosophies of uncompromising conservatives. Undeniably, the same name also congers thoughts of hypocrisy, desertion, and self-denial toward one of America's most divisive and enigmatic political figures. Since his nomination by President George H. Bush to the United States Supreme Court, Justice Thomas has been inundated with criticism by those who oppose his expressed jurisprudence and with praises by those who follow his hard-nosed, unapologetic style of governance in his role as America's second African-American Supreme Court Justice.
Justices Thomas' political views against abortion, affirmative action, and several race-based efforts to counteract discrimination, stand in stark contrast to the agenda of the vast majority of civil rights groups and politically active African-Americans (Smith & Baugh, 2000). With a personal viewpoint so different from so many African-American people, it stands to reason that such conflicting attitudes and values and may have been shaped and molded by his life experiences; the experience of growing up impoverished, in the segregated, rural community of Pin Point, Georgia. Born to Leola Anderson, Thomas, along with a younger brother and sister, grew up in indigent conditions until the age of seven when, after accidentally burning down his mother's home, (Wikipedia, Clarence Thomas, 2002) he and his younger brother went to live with their grandfather, Myers Anderson.
It is at this time in Thomas' life where certain personality traits seems to have formed and where a diligent work ethic and obedience became commonplace as the stoic Anderson made no allowances for their age and began teaching the two young boys the reality of hard work and rigid discipline (Foskett, K. 2004). Although, once living with his grandfather, Thomas worked many days from sun up to sun down, he also began to experience luxuries' not previously available; electricity, a secure roof over his head, an indoor toilet, a bedroom of his own, clean clothes, decent shoes and plenty to eat (Foskett, K., 2004, August 15. Growing up right. [Electronic version] The Atlanta Constitution, pp. 1E). It was Anderson's fuel oil company that provided the family with amenities uncommon for African-Americans in the mid-1950's including a car and a truck. In return for the more comfortable home life, Thomas lived by his grandfather's strict rules and worked every day performing every task from delivering fuel oil and cutting grass to pouring cement and stringing barbed wired fence posts. During these formative years, Anderson often lectured Thomas and his brother about independence and self-reliance as a means to success (Foskett, K., 2004, August 15. Growing up right. [Electronic version] The Atlanta Constitution, pp. 1E).
Over the years, Thomas studied diligently in school with initial aspirations to accept a divine calling. Thomas studied for the priesthood in Catholic seminaries, first at St. John
Varner Junior Seminary in Savannah, Ga., and later at Immaculate Conception Seminary College in Missouri where he was one of just a few African-American students (Foskett, K., 2004). It was in seminary that Thomas, devastated after overhearing a classmate gloat happily about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., decided to abandon his clergy ambitions and attend Holy Cross College in Worchester, Massachusetts where he co-founded the school's first Black Student Union.
After graduating 9th in his class from Holy Cross, Thomas attended Yale Law School. Contrary to his controversial opposition to Affirmative Action, in each of the aforementioned settings, seminary, college and law school, Thomas was the beneficiary of affirmative action programs involving either financial...