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Clarence Thomas

U.S. Supreme Court Justice / Jurist

Born: 23 June 1948
Birthplace: Pin Point, Georgia
Best known as: African-American Supreme Court Justice

Clarence Thomas is the conservative African American United States Supreme Court justice who was thrust into the limelight in his 1991 confirmation proceedings, during which he was accused of sexual harassment. Thomas grew up in rural Georgia, attended Conception Seminary and Holy Cross College, then graduated from Yale Law School in 1974. He practiced law for a short time in Missouri, then was an assistant to the attorney general and a corporate attorney before becoming an aide to Senator John Danforth (1979-81). Thomas caught the eye of the administration of President Ronald Reagan and ended up as the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from 1982 until he was appointed in 1990 by President George Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals. In 1991 he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bush, to fill the seat left by retiring justice Thurgood Marshall.

Despite partisan debate over Thomas's politics and lack of experience, he appeared to be headed for confirmation when the story broke that a former colleague, Anita Hill, accused him of lewd and inappropriate behavior while at the EEOC. The Senate Judiciary Committee reopened Thomas's confirmation hearing and televised the proceedings. Hill, a law professor in Oklahoma, gave testimony that stunned viewers with its adults-only content, and Thomas flatly denied her allegations. Both sides, Democrats supporting Hill and Republicans supporting Thomas, accused the other of dirty politics. In spite of Thomas's famous declaration that the hearing amounted to "a high-tech lynching of uppity blacks," what came out of the hearings was a national debate not on race, but on gender -- specifically the issue of sexual harrassment. In the end, Thomas was confirmed by the Senate, 52-48, and became the second African American to sit on the Supreme Court. Since then he has kept a low profile on the court and has earned a reputation as one of the more conservative justices.

Extra credit: According to his Supreme Court biography, Thomas "married Virginia Lamp in 1987 and has one child, Jamal Adeen, by a previous marriage"... Thomas presided at the 1994 marriage of radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and his third wife, Marta; the marriage took place at Thomas's home in Virginia.

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