kids encyclopedia robot

Clarence Thomas facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas official SCOTUS portrait.jpg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Assumed office
October 18, 1991
Nominated by George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Thurgood Marshall
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
In office
March 12, 1990 – October 23, 1991
Nominated by George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Robert Bork
Succeeded by Judith Rogers
Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
In office
May 6, 1982 – March 12, 1990
President Ronald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Eleanor Holmes Norton
Succeeded by Evan Kemp
Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office for Civil Rights
In office
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Cynthia Brown
Succeeded by Harry Singleton
Personal details
Born June 23, 1948 (1948-06-23) (age 72)
Pin Point, Georgia, U.S.
Political party Republican
Kathy Ambush
(m. 1971; div. 1984)

Virginia Lamp (m. 1987)
Children 1
Education Conception Seminary College
College of the Holy Cross (BA)
Yale University (JD)

Clarence Thomas (born June 23, 1948) is an American judge, lawyer, and government official who currently serves as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Thomas succeeded Thurgood Marshall and is the second African American to serve on the court.

Early life

Clarence Thomas was born in Pin Point, Georgia. His father left his family when he was only two years old. He did not meet his son Clarence again until Clarence was nine years old. This left his mother, Leola Anderson, to take care of the family.

Clarence and his brother were sent to live with his mother's parents in Savannah, Georgia. His grandfather wanted him to become a priest. Thomas was sent to St. John Vianney Minor Seminary, an all-white boarding school near Savannah. In 1968 he transferred to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He gave up all ideas of becoming a priest after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.. Thomas then obtained a law degree at Yale University.


After Yale he returned to Missouri and worked for State Attorney General, John Danforth. in 1977 Danforth was elected to the U.S. Senate. Thomas became a corporate lawyer for the Monsanto Company. Two years later he became Danforth's legislative aide in Washington, D.C..

President Ronald Reagan offered Thomas a job as the assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education. He then became the chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Thomas was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. In 1991, Thurgood Marshall retired from the Supreme Court. Bush nominated Thomas to replace him.

Since joining the court, Thomas has taken a textualist approach, seeking to uphold the original meaning of the United States Constitution and statutes. He is generally viewed as the most conservative member of the court. Thomas is also known for his practice of rarely speaking during oral arguments.

Thomas has given many reasons for his silence, including self-consciousness about how he speaks, a preference for listening to those arguing the case, and difficulty getting in a word. Thomas' speaking and listening habits also may have been influenced by his Gullah upbringing, during which time his English was relatively unpolished.

In 2000, he told a group of high school students that "if you wait long enough, someone will ask your question." Although he rarely speaks from the bench, Thomas has acknowledged that sometimes, during oral arguments, he will pass notes to his friend and colleague Justice Stephen Breyer, who then asks questions on behalf of Thomas.


  • Thomas, Clarence. "Why Federalism Matters," Drake Law Review, Volume 48, Issue 2, page 231 (2000).
  • Thomas, Clarence. "Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas".
  • Thomas, Clarence. "Punishment and Personhood," City Journal, Autumn 1994.

Images for kids

kids search engine
Clarence Thomas Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.