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Judging Thomas: Tim Life and Times of Clarence Thomas.

Judging Thomas: Tim Life and Times of Clarence Thomas

by Ken Foskett William Morrow, August 2004 $24.95, ISBN 0-060-52721-8

Ken Foskett of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution provides a humanizing window into the world of the much-reviled Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In 1991, Clarence Thomas was virtually an unknown federal judge who had recently been appointed to the bench in Washington, D.C. Thomas catapulted into the national spotlight on July 1, 1991, when President George H. Bush appointed him to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Thurgood Marshall's retirement. Thomas's ascent to the Court was one of the most controversial in history; it divided African Americans, angered civil rights leaders and alienated women and labor organizers in an unparalleled manner.

Using interviews with Thomas himself, fellow justices, family members, and friends and associates, Foskett weaves a narrative that highlights the complexities of Thomas's personal turmoil as a conservative African American whose own success is a direct result of affirmative action. Foskett's prose is clean and concise; he engages his readers by illuminating facets of Thomas's personality that are in direct contradiction to the defiant Supreme Court nominee who took center stage during his humiliating confirmation hearings.

Thomas is a deeply religious man, who at one point studied for the priesthood, and he believes his religion helped him to persevere under the weight of his explosive confirmation hearings. Behind Thomas's mask of indifference and reticence is a man with a wicked sense of humor and a booming laugh that often catches the unsuspecting off-guard. Thomas is portrayed as a loving father and husband prone to displays of emotion that belie his frosty exterior.

Foskett exposes the man behind the curtain in a balanced manner by exploring many of Thomas's strengths and weaknesses. From this vantage point, the reader learns that Thomas is a conflicted man who advocates the merits of a color-blind society, an ideal he holds out as a benchmark for this country to achieve, yet whose perspective and life experiences have undeniably been shaped by race, the very thing he proposes negating. Thomas's own experiences, however, are evidence that the problem of the color line articulated by W.E.B. Du Bois in 1903 is still inescapable more than 100 years later.

Kalyn Johnson is lawyer practicing in New York and a coauthor of the BAP Handbook: The Official Guide to the Black American Princess (Broadway Books, 2001).
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Author:Johnson, Kalyn
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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