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My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir

Publisher: Harper Perennial • 2008 • 320 pages
4.54 out of 5 • View Ratings Details • 35 Ratings

His early life in the dusty town of Pinpoint, Georgia, was marked by poverty and hunger. His father abandoned his family when he was one year old, leaving his teenage mother to raise him on a $10 a week maid’s salary. When this became impossible to continue, she sent him, now seven, to live with her father in the comparatively big city of Savannah. This move would forever change the life of Clarence Thomas, a man who has moved from poverty and hardship to the Supreme Court, becoming one of our nation’s most stalwart conservatives. In “My Grandfather’s Son,” Thomas tells his own moving, inspiring story — from the deprivations and humiliations of his youth to the unconscionable defamation he suffered at the hands of the Left during his hotly contested confirmation battle for the Supreme Court.

Thomas’s grandfather — the man he called “Daddy” — was determined that his grandson would be equipped to face the fiercest challenges a hostile world could throw at him. He raised him with a strict work ethic in the most difficult of circumstances: the Georgia of the 1950s and 1960s, when racism was still a daily reality. Thomas recounts the numerous hard lessons he absorbed as he witnessed the struggles of his grandparents in the face of futility, their perseverance through numerous injustices, their hopefulness in the face of bigotry, and their unstinting love for their country despite all that they suffered.

His grandparents’ struggles to raise him right were not in vain. Thomas details his meteoric rise from his humble, disadvantaged roots, and reveals how he even experienced discrimination while attending Holy Cross and Yale Law School. Yet despite all obstacles, he persevered, as his grandfather had taught him to do by example: in the thrilling climax of this book, he tells the full story of how he met the furious (and cravenly politically motivated) challenge of Anita Hill’s slanderous charges and his consequent depression during the most contested public confirmation to the Supreme Court in history. It is a story of tragedy, triumph, and firm Christian faith. Clarence Thomas’s story is a poignant, heartfelt tale of one courageous conservative’s journey, against all odds, to the highest court in the land.

Clarence Thomas speaks out:

  • On responsibility: “Daddy made it plain…that there was a connection between what he provided for us and what he required of us.”
  • On his grandfather’s ethic: “He never praised us, just as he never hugged us. Whenever my grandmother urged him to tell us that we had done a good job, he replied, ?That’s their responsibility. Any job worth doing is worth doing right.'”
  • On busing: “What made anyone think that white people who didn’t want to eat with us were going to like our children any better? We both saw busing as a tragic digression from the quest for real equality: the ostensible means of achieving a desirable end had become the end in itself.”
  • More on busing: “Once again blacks were being offered up as human sacrifices to the great god of theory, and I swore on the spot never to let Jamal go to a public school, even if I had to starve to pay his tuition. I had no intention of allowing my son to become a guinea pig in some harebrained social experiment.”
  • On media bias: “I felt sure that Daddy and I weren’t the only blacks in America who doubted the value of busing, but only black nationalists and separatists, it seemed, were allowed to say so in public. The rest of us, we were told, didn’t speak for blacks, thus making us irrelevant.”
  • On his early views: “I didn’t think it was a good idea to make poor blacks, or anyone else, more dependent on government. That would amount to a new kind of enslavement, one which ultimately relied on the generosity — and the ever-changing self-interests — of politicians and activists.”
  • On liberal policies toward blacks: “Aside from the oft-demonstrated incapacity of big government to solve our problems, I feared that the unintended effects of social-engineering policies like urban renewal would be at least as bad as the problems themselves.”
  • On the reason for the Anita Hill controversy: “I’d been nominated to sit on the Supreme Court — but my refusal to swallow the liberal pieties that had done so much damage to blacks in America meant that I had to be destroyed.”
  • On the effect within him of Hill’s allegations: “As a child in the Deep South, I’d grown up fearing the lynch mobs of the Ku Klux Klan; as an adult, I was starting to wonder if I’d been afraid of the wrong white people all along. My worst fears had come to pass not in Georgia but in Washington, D.C., where I was being pursued not by bigots in white robes but by left-wing zealots draped in flowing sanctimony.”
  • The Senate’s conduct during his confirmation hearings: “As for the Senate, it had abandoned all semblance of decorum to consider a set of trumped-up charges better suited to the tabloids than the Congressional Record.”
  • On the real Anita Hill: “On Sunday morning, courtesy of Newsday, I met for the first time an Anita Hill who bore little resemblance to the woman who had worked for me at EEOC and the Education Department. Somewhere along the line she had been transformed into a conservative, devoutly religious Reagan-administration employee. In fact she was a left-winger who’d never expressed any religious sentiments whatsoever during the time I’d known her, and the only reason why she’d held a job in the Reagan administration was because I’d given it to her.”
  • On the darkest hours of the Anita Hill furor: “The more hopeless things appeared and the more vulnerable I felt, the more I turned to God’s comforting embrace, and over time my focus became primarily God-centered.”

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