Yet, word is that Ol' Clarence, the second black to serve on the High Court, is a very bitter associate justice and, it appears from the early reviews, a very bitter man.
National Public Radio's Nina Totenberg put it well on All Things Considered on Saturday. Nina had spoken with several people who helped him get confirmed 16 years ago, "allies who simply don’t understand it because it reopens a wound that’s 16 years old, [a wound] that most people have moved on from, and it draws the Supreme Court into a place where it doesn’t want to be which is into politics.”
Totenberg described My Grandfather's Son as "intensely personal - far more personal that any memoir I have ever read. And it’s language is so vivid that it’s almost uncomfortable at moments to read."
"What gave these rich white men the right to question my commitment to racial justice? Was there no limit to their shamelessness?"
Which senators was he talking about?
Many, said Nina, among them Sen. Judiciary Committee Chairman at-the-time Joe Biden who he calls "a hypocrite."
And Patrick Leahy of Vermont who dared questioned him on abortion rights and the law. "[Leahy's] bullying was something I just didn't give into," writes Justice Thomas.
St. Patrick's been called a whole of of names, but I wasn't aware "bully" was on the list.
Reached by NPR's Totenberg at his Middlesex, Vermont home on Saturday, Vermont's senior senator had this to say:
"He surprised everybody, Republicans and Democrats on the committee by saying he had never discussed Roe v. Wade or the hearing, even though the decision came down while he was in law school.
"I don’t know any senator who believed that answer, either Republicans or Democrats. Most people were kind of scratching their heads wondering why he wouldn’t tell the truth about something like that."
Here's a taste of the Leahy-Thomas exchange during Thomas' confirmation hearing on September 11, 1991 - long time ago, eh?:
SENATOR LEAHY: You were in law school at the time Roe v. Wade was decided. Was it discussed while you were there?
THOMAS: The case that I remember being discussed most during law school was Griswold. But I did not spend a lot of time debating all the current cases.
LEAHY: I am sure you are not suggesting that there wasn’t any discussion at any time of Roe v. Wade?
THOMAS: Senator, I cannot remember personally engaging in those discussions.
LEAHY: Have you ever had discussion of Roe v. Wade in the 17 years it has been there?
THOMAS: Only in the most general sense that other individuals express concerns, and you listen and you try to be thoughtful. If you are asking me whether or not I have ever debated the contents of it, that answer to that is no, Senator.
LEAHY: Have you ever stated whether you felt that it was properly decided or not?
THOMAS: I don’t recollect commenting one way or the other. There were, again, debates about it in various places, but I generally did not participate.
Source: Senate Confirmation Hearings September 11, 1991