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Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomasby Michael Fletcher
Synopses & Reviews
Being Clarence Thomas
Dallas attorney Eric Moye received his copy in the mail from a fellow Harvard Law School alum. He started reading it but stopped to make a copy of the copy for a friend. He continued reading, absorbed, enchanted, depressed, exhilarated. Couldn't put it down--except to make more copies.
It wasn't a John Grisham thriller, but it might as well have been. An Open Letter to Justice Clarence Thomas from a Federal Judicial Colleague created an enormous buzz when the University of Pennsylvania Law Review published it in January 1992. Written by A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., chief judge emeritus of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, it was part history lesson and part admonition. Crafted with scholarly precision, it contained eighty-five footnotes and numerous citations of important court cases. But the essence of it read like a stern grandfather lecturing his bullheaded grandson: Don't forget the roots of your success, boy, and the responsibilities you have to those who paved your way,
You...must try to remember that the fundamental problems of the disadvantaged, women, minorities, and the powerless have not all been solved simply because you have 'moved on up' from Pin Point, Georgia, to the Supreme Court, Higginbotham wrote in the conclusion of his twenty-four-page set of instructions to Thomas. Reciting a roster of notable names from the past, Higginbotham urged Thomas to see his life as connected to the visions and struggles of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Charles Hamilton Houston, A. Philip Randolph, Mary McLeod Bethune, W. E. B. Du Bois, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, Martin Luther King, Judge William Henry Hastie, Justices Thurgood Marshall, Earl Warren, and William Brennan, as well as the thousands of others who dedicated much of their lives to create the America that made your opportunities possible.
The open letter read at times like a personal letter and was dated November 29, 1991, which was shortly after Thomas took his seat on the high court. Higginbotham felt ambivalent about making his letter public but did so, he said, to help this generation and future ones better evaluate Thomas. Because it was so well sourced and because it was penned by a black twenty-seven-year veteran of the federal bench, the letter as law review article carried an authority that most Thomas critiques did not.
As such, it received considerable attention. The University of Pennsylvania received more than seventeen thousand requests for reprints, and law offices around the country busily churned out photocopies.
Sometimes chain letters circulate all over the place, recalled Moye, and this was kind of like one of those. Nowhere was the interest greater than in black legal circles, where a robust debate was unfolding about what kind of justice Thomas would become. Moye, a former state district judge with a weakness for Cuban cigars and the finest steaks, acted as if he'd reached nirvana. After he made his first copy of the Higginbotham treatise and got his secretary to make five more copies, he bought the bound version to put on his office shelf. So many photocopies were in circulation that another one
Based on a 2002 profile of the controversial Supreme Court justice from The Washington Post Magazine, a portrait of Clarence Thomas traces the personal odyssey of the African-American justice from his poor, rural Georgia upbringing to the pinnacle of judicial power, capturing a bitter, isolated, and conflicted man forced to straddle two different worlds. 60,000 first printing.
Tracks the personal odyssey of perhaps the least understood man in Washington, from his poor childhood in Pin Point and Savannah, Georgia, to his educational experiences in a Catholic seminary and Holy Cross, to his law school years at Yale during the Black Power era, to his rise within the Republican political establishment. It offers a window into a man who straddles two different worlds and is uneasy in both--and whose divided personality and conservative political philosophy will deeply influence American life for years to come. This book originated from a profile of Clarence Thomas that appeared in The Washington Post Magazine. In it, Merida and Fletcher, both Post staffers, both black, crafted a haunting portrait of an isolated and bitter man, savagely reviled by much of the black community yet not entirely comfortable in white society.--From publisher description.
About the Author
KEVIN MERIDA is an associate editor at The Washington Post. He has been a national political reporter for the paper, a feature writer for its Style section, and a columnist for the Post's Sunday magazine. In 2000 he was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. MICHAEL FLETCHER covers the White House for The Washington Post, where he has been a reporter since 1995. He has previously covered education and race relations, chronicling issues including the racial achievement gap, racial profiling, criminal justice disparities, and the battle over the future of affirmative action.
Table of Contents
Courting venom : being Clarence Thomas — The pinpoint myth — The Savannah reality — Myers, Leola and Emma — "Radical times" — The making of a conservative — Meteoric rise — Who lied? — The aftermath : Thomas's love affair with the right — Cruel and unusual punishment — Marshall's footprints — Inside the court — Silent justice — Scalia's clone — The quiet, anonymous life — Expectations.
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