This Day in History – October 15, 1991

Judge Clarence Thomas became the 106th associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court


On this day in 1991, Judge Clarence Thomas became the 106th associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Thomas, the second African American member of the Supreme Court, was born on June 23, 1948 in the small black community of Pin Point, Georgia.

After high school, before deciding to become a justice, Thomas attended St. John Vianney Minor Seminary to become a Catholic priest. After graduating in 1967, he went on to attend Immaculate Conception Seminary in Missouri.


The 1968 shooting of Martin Luther King, Jr. marked a turning point in Thomas’ life. He left the seminary after hearing fellow students make fun of the assassination and he moved north to Massachusetts where he studied English.

While there, he helped establish a student union and became involved in several political and social causes. He then attended Yale University Law School. It was around this time that his views started to become more liberal

Thomas returned to the South where he worked as a lawyer for an agricultural firm. He then moved to Washington, D.C. and was nominated to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Ronald Reagan and later President George H.W. Bush. Thomas replaced the retiring Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was the first black man to serve on the court.

Throughout the course of his appointment, Thomas has accepted very few interviews. However, in 2007, he finally decided to disclose information about his life with the memoir My Grandfather’s Son.

Thomas has been involved in many landmark decisions over the years, most of which he opposed. The most notable of these Supreme Court decisions include the 2015 decision to uphold the federal tax subsidies of the Affordable Care Act as well as the decision that gay couples can legally be married.


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