When Liberals Had a Clarence Thomas

The story of Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas

John Egelkrout
8 min readMay 19


Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash

If there was an award for being the least-qualified Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas would most likely win. Nominated by George H.W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate in 1991, Thomas has been on the Supreme Court for almost 32 years. At age 74, he has spent almost half his life as a justice on the Supreme Court.

How qualified was he for that seat? At age 46, he had only been a justice on the federal court of appeals for 19 months before Bush nominated him to replace Thurgood Marshall. Before that, he was chairman of the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Prior to that appointment, he was Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education.

Thomas never served as a federal circuit court judge. He never served as a judge in a state court. He was never even a judge in traffic court or a Justice of the Peace. Until his appointment to the Federal Court of Appeals, Thomas had no experience whatsoever as a judge.

For Pete’s sake, Judge Judy had more experience on the bench than he did.

He did, however, have the two required qualifications for the seat of Thurgood Marshall. Those qualifications are as follows:

He is conservative.

He is black.

The rest was just window dressing. What did it matter if he had almost no judicial experience? What did it matter that he majored in English Literature in college? What difference did it make he finished “somewhere in the middle” of his graduating class at Yale Law School?

His nomination hearings became volcanic when charges of sexual harassment were leveled at him by Dr. Anita Hill. Her accusations that he compared his penis to that of “Long Dong Silver,” a Black porn star, didn’t derail his confirmation. Neither did the written testimony of Angela Wright or Sukari Hardnett stating Thomas did in fact sexually harass female associates.

He was confirmed by a 52–48 vote, the closest margin for a Supreme Court Justice since 1881. Still, he was confirmed.

In the years since that sorry event, Clarence Thomas continues to prove the 48 who voted against his confirmation right. In…



John Egelkrout

I am a former teacher who works a small organic farm with my wife. I write about politics, education, social issues and a variety of other topics..