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BOOK REVIEW – My Grandfather’s Son, Part 1

February 24, 2019

My Grandfather’s Son by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is nothing short of a revelation.

Since the explosive testimony by Anita Hill during his confirmation hearing, Justice Thomas has been characterized as a boor and a bully – a man of limited intellect who became a traitor to his race, advocating reactionary ideas for the sake of personal advancement.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A Childhood Spent in Poverty

Justice Thomas begins this candid autobiography by describing his Georgia childhood in abject poverty.

“The house in which I was born was a shanty with no bathroom and no electricity except for a single light in the living room.  Kerosene lamps lit the rest of the house.  In the wintertime we plugged up the cracks and holes in the walls with old newspapers.  Water came from a nearby faucet, and we carried it through the woods in old lard buckets.”

Self-Reliance and a Strong Work Ethic

Raised by a strict and stern grandfather, Justice Thomas credits his early upbringing with instilling in him a belief in self-reliance, a strong work ethic, and an independent frame of mind.

Segregation and racial prejudice were as much a fact of existence as were summers of backbreaking labor.

“Our small, soft hands blistered quickly at the start of each summer, but Daddy [the term Justice Thomas used for his grandfather] never let us wear work gloves, which he considered a sign of weakness.  After a few weeks of constant work, the bloody blisters gave way to hard-earned calluses that protected us from pain.  Long after the fact, it occurred to me that this was a metaphor for life – blisters come before calluses, vulnerability before maturity…”

Education and Faith

Thanks to his grandfather, Justice Thomas received a parochial school education.  Justice Thomas traces his rigorous intellectual training from St. John Vianney Seminary, and Immaculate Conception Abbey, through Holy Cross College (where he was one of six black students in a class of about 550), and finally Yale Law School.

A man of faith, Justice Thomas seriously considered the priesthood.  He abandoned that career path when the Catholic Church failed to take a stand on civil rights.  However, his faith stood him in good stead during the ordeal of the confirmation process.

This review will conclude next week.


  1. Good one dear !!

  2. It sounds like a great book Anna.
    Thank you for sharing your review !

  3. Excellent article Anna. Thank you.

  4. This has to be a page turner.

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