Georgia’s state Senate passed legislation on Feb. 14 to erect a statue honoring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at the state capitol in Atlanta, despite the impassioned objections of Democratic lawmakers.
Thomas, a black man, has long been a target of the left for his conservative, constitutionalist views and has been bitterly denounced by Democrats for years, often in offensive, racial terms.
Now 74, Thomas was born June 23, 1948, in Pin Point, Georgia. He was nominated by then-President George H.W. Bush and narrowly confirmed by the U.S. Senate in October 1991 after a bruising confirmation battle whose intense, partisan tone helped to set the stage for today’s often combative and highly choreographed Supreme Court confirmations.
Then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-Del.) led the attack on Thomas in 1991, questioning his ideological suitability for the court and reopening the committee hearing after 11th-hour allegations emerged from Anita Hill, who claimed she was sexually harassed by the future justice when she worked for him at two federal agencies.
Thomas vehemently denied the allegations and criticized the confirmation process itself, describing it as “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you.”
The Senate voted 52–48 to confirm Thomas, who is now the longest-serving of the nine justices on the Supreme Court.
Thomas wrote the majority opinion in the court’s landmark June 2022 ruling that recognized a constitutional right to carry a gun for protection outside the home. States such as New York, New Jersey, California, and Illinois responded to the ruling by doubling down on firearms restrictions. Thomas also voted in the majority in the court’s decision the same month overturning Roe v. Wade and returning the regulation of abortion to the states. Several states have outlawed abortions or imposed new restrictions on the procedure since then.
The GOP-controlled Georgia Senate approved Senate Bill 69 by 32–20 in a party-line vote after Democrats withdrew a proposed amendment that would have also mandated a statue of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a Civil Rights Era activist who died in 2020. The Thomas monument would be paid for with private funds.
State Sen. Ben Watson, a Savannah Republican who is sponsoring the statue legislation, said Thomas has worked hard in his life, struggled, and overcome steep odds.
Thomas “should inspire people,” Watson told The Epoch Times in an interview.
“His house burned, his dad left him, and he and his mother moved into the city of Savannah. [He was] reared by his maternal grandfather. And [he] loved to read, loved to study ... went to Catholic school,” the lawmaker said.
“He’s someone that came from very humble beginnings and has just done fabulously, and I think that should inspire us—that’s what monuments and statues should do,” Watson said.
Democratic lawmakers in the state said Thomas doesn’t deserve to be honored, according to The Associated Press.
“His service is problematic,” Sen. Nan Orrock said. “There’s a cloud over his service ... and that cloud continues today.”
Sen. Emanuel Jones, a black man, denounced Thomas as an “Uncle Tom,” saying the jurist is akin to someone who has “sold his soul to the slave master.”
“There’s a whole laundry list of positions that Justice Thomas has taken that I find offensive,“ Jones said. ”Sometimes, when I talk to the majority party, I say, ‘Y’all just don’t get it.’”
Conservative activist and scholar Tina Trent, a former candidate for District 26 of the Georgia House, told The Epoch Times she was frustrated that some lawmakers oppose honoring Thomas.
“It saddens me that we can’t all come together to honor the obstacles Justice Thomas overcame to reach the Supreme Court,” she said in an interview. “We should honor him as a great Georgian.”
“And as someone who was a constituent of Representative John Lewis for 20 years in south Atlanta, it angers me that Democratic legislators are literally toying with his legacy of fighting racism in the ’60s just to try to disrespect Justice Thomas. I certainly didn’t always agree with Representative Lewis, but he stood up to injustice as a young man, and he shouldn’t be used as a pawn in some political game,” Trent said.
The statue legislation now moves to the Georgia House of Representatives, which, like the state Senate, is dominated by Republicans.