My Grandfather’s Son

A Memoir


Justice Clarence Thomas



“I’ve never doubted the greatness of a country in which a person like me could travel all the way from Pinpoint to Capitol Hill.”   ~Justice Clarence Thomas


In a deeply personal memoir as apa personal statement, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas reveals his exceptional journey from the depths of poverty in the segregated Deep South to his position at the heights of American jurisprudence.  But his journey to the highest court in the land began a long way from the nation’s capital, during a time of limited opportunity and incredible hardship for blacks in America. For the first time this most private of public figures shares his remarkable story, in his own words.


Now in a groundbreaking new memoir, My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir (Harper/HarperCollins; October 1, 2007; $26.95; Hardcover), Justice Clarence Thomas breaks his silence, and with an abiding faith that his story may truly offer hope to others, he shares his extraordinary journey with great candor.


My Grandfather’s Son is an inspiring story of a child born into unremitting poverty near Savannah, Georgia at the height of racial segregation. The descendent of West African slaves, Thomas was abandoned as an infant by a father who broke the only promise he ever made to his son. After surviving a difficult early childhood, living with little electricity and no running water, Thomas would eventually be sent to live with his grandparents. It was his strict grandfather’s uncompromising character and tough love that would forever change the course of his life.


Thomas describes the day he arrived at his grandparents’ house with all his belongings stuffed into a small grocery bag, as he stood there mesmerized by the much improved conditions in which he would now be living, his grandfather turned to him and his brother and said, “The damn vacation is over!” His grandfather, who had little patience for wallowing in pity, would instill a strong work ethic—stressing that learning to work would be his inheritance. He preached the importance of having both a strong faith and a good education, and would accept no excuses for failure. These new hardened rules that Thomas at first resented ultimately would prepare him for all the challenges that lay ahead.


In My Grandfather’s Son, Thomas traces his efforts to gain a foothold in a world still marked by segregation and outright racism. Thomas, who had found great salvation in his Catholic faith, decided to enter the seminary and prepare for the priesthood. Ranked near the top of his class, Thomas had become so disheartened by the Church’s silence on racism that he decided not to enter the priesthood. Instead, Thomas transferred to Holy Cross College.


From the seminary to Holy Cross, to being accepted to both Harvard and Yale Law schools, Thomas describes his scholastic achievements and struggles as one of very few blacks in a traditionally white world. Today, instead of hanging his Yale law degree on the wall of his Supreme Court office, Thomas keeps it tucked away with a fifteen cent sticker stuck to it, as a poignant reminder of what a degree with the stigma of racial preference is truly worth to him.


In this candid memoir, Thomas reveals the spiritual, political, and intellectual journey he undertook during his adolescence and early adulthood that allowed him to overcome the hurdles life had placed in his way. In MY GRANDFATHER'S SON, Thomas also describes his harrowing confirmation process and the effect it had on him and his family.


Thomas, who witnessed his grandparents’ steadfastness despite injustices, their hopefulness despite bigotry, and their deep love for their country, carries enormous pride today, in serving his country as a United States Supreme Court Justice. With that instilled sense of duty and honor, Thomas vowed when taking his seat on the bench, to always honor his grandparents’ lives.


My Grandfather’s SoN is the story of a determined man whose faith, courage, and perseverance inspired him to rise up against all odds. Thomas’ story serves as a legacy to the family and friends who helped him to overcome adversity, and most importantly, it bears witness to the man who made it all possible—his grandfather.