NRL News

Twenty Years after the Nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas

by | Oct 22, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Justice Clarence Thomas, in 1991, before the Senate Judiciary Committee

For those too young to remember, at National Review online today you’ll find “the men who shepherded [Supreme Court Justice Clarence] Thomas through confirmation reflect on the Anita Hill hearings 20 years later.” Take it from me—who IS old enough to remember—these reminiscences are riveting.

Without getting into a lot of detail, what you need to remember is that Justice Clarence Thomas (then a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals) had been nominated by President George H.W. Bush to replace Thurgood Marshall, an ultra-liberal, ultra-pro-abortion justice, on the Supreme Court. Marshall had been on the High Court for 24 years.

Pro-abortionists vowed, in the words of NOW member Flo Kennedy, “to bork him” (a reference to the assault on Judge Robert Bork, whose nomination to the High Court was defeated). “We need to kill him politically.”

That both men were African-Americans just made pro-abortionists all the angrier. Then as now, diversity of thought was honored more in the breach than in the observance by those who profess to believe that we are better off when there is a variety of opinion.

It seemed as if Thomas, who was more than qualified, was going to be confirmed, made worse (to his opponents) by the fact that the Senate was in the hands of pro-abortion Democrats. Groups such as NOW and the National Education Association geared up to defeat Thomas, assisted by the decision of then-Judiciary Committee chair Senator Joe Biden to hold off hearings until the fall, allowing time to mount an all-out campaign against the nomination. The issue, of course, was “reproductive rights.”

Thomas squeaked through the Judiciary Committee on a tie vote, and it looked like his confirmation was assured, perhaps with as many as 60 to 67 votes. The full Senate vote was scheduled for October 8. Just days before, Anita Hill’s scurrilous allegations were leaked to the press.

As it happens twenty years ago my entire family was in the car on our way to a National Right to Life state affiliate convention when Thomas testified at a second round of questioning, which Biden called after Hill’s allegations were publicized on NPR. Although we could barely hear him as we traveled through the mountains, I was so transfixed by what I heard I still recall that day like it was yesterday.

Coincidentally I recently saw on C-SPAN highlights of Thomas’s and Hill’s testimony. It brought back vividly how vicious the attacks were on Judge Thomas and how angry he was as he responded with a blanket denial.

Senator Jack Danforth was Thomas’s patron (Thomas worked for Danforth briefly as an aide) and was assigned to shepherd the nomination through the Senate.

On National Review Online we read

”To this day, Danforth recoils at the hatred that the feminist groups felt toward Thomas. ‘It was unacceptable to put a black man who was pro-life on the Court. They couldn’t tolerate it, so they had to defeat him.’”

You can read about Justice Thomas’s ordeal at

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Categories: Supreme Court