Clarence Thomas (Justice) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Clarence Thomas is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, known for his conservative judicial philosophy.

Early Life and Education

Clarence Thomas was born on June 23, 1948, in Pin Point, Georgia. His early life was marked by hardship, but he overcame these obstacles and attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He then went on to attend Yale Law School, where he earned his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in 1974.

Start of Legal and Political Career

After finishing law school, Thomas worked as an assistant attorney general in Missouri. Later, he moved to Washington D.C. to work for Senator John Danforth. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Thomas Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a role he held for eight years.

Supreme Court Justice

In 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Thomas to the Supreme Court to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall. After a contentious confirmation process, Thomas took his seat on October 23, 1991. Since then, he has been a pivotal figure on the bench.

Voting Record and Judicial Philosophy

Thomas is known for his conservative leanings, often interpreting the U.S. Constitution through an “originalist” lens. This approach attempts to understand the Constitution as it was originally intended by the writers rather than interpreting it through a modern lens.

Thomas is often seen as part of the conservative wing of the court. He’s voted to limit federal power and protect states’ rights. He has also consistently supported law enforcement in criminal cases and is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.

On social issues, Thomas’s conservative stance is clear. He’s consistently voted against abortion rights and was one of the dissenting voices in the landmark 2015 case that legalized same-sex marriage across the United States.

However, like any justice, Thomas’s voting record isn’t entirely predictable. For example, he’s often sided with the court’s more liberal justices in decisions regarding the rights of criminal defendants.

Personal Life

Thomas married Virginia Lamp in 1987, and they have one child, Jamal. Despite the pressures of serving on the Supreme Court, Thomas has always prioritized his family life.


Clarence Thomas has built a reputation as a principled and conservative justice. From his humble beginnings to his influential role on the Supreme Court, Thomas’s journey embodies dedication, resilience, and a commitment to his interpretation of the Constitution.

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Last Modified: 06/06/2023

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