Clarence Thomas , (born June 23, 1948, Pinpoint, near Savannah, Georgia, U.S.), associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1991, the second African American to serve on the court. Appointed to replace Thurgood Marshall, the court’s first African American member, Thomas gave the court a decisive conservative cast.
Thomas’s father abandoned the family when Thomas was two years old. After the family house was destroyed by fire, Thomas’s mother, a maid, remarried, and Thomas, then age seven, and his brother were sent to live with their grandfather. He was educated in Savannah, Georgia, at an all-African American Roman Catholic primary school run by white nuns and then at a boarding-school seminary, where he graduated as the only African American in his class. He attended Immaculate Conception Abbey in his freshman year of college and then transferred to Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1971. He received a law degree from Yale University in 1974.
Thomas was successively assistant attorney general in Missouri (1974–77), a lawyer with the Monsanto Company (1977–79), and a legislative assistant to Republican Senator John C. Danforth of Missouri (1979–81). In the Republican presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Thomas served as assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education (1981–82), chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC; 1982–90), and judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal District in Washington, D.C. (1990–91), a post to which he was appointed by Bush.
Marshall’s retirement gave Bush the opportunity to replace one of the court’s most liberal members with a conservative. The president was under significant political pressure to appoint another African American, and Thomas’s service under Republican senators and presidents made him an obvious choice. Despite his appeal to Republican partisans, however, his nomination engendered controversy for several reasons: he had