October 15

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Clarence Thomas Confirmation

October 15, 1991 - Pin Point, Savannah

He became only the second African-American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court—and one of its most controversial members.

Clarence Thomas was born in Pinpoint, Georgia, in 1948 and was raised by his grandfather as a devout Catholic. He planned to join the priesthood but left the seminary after encountering racial prejudice. Instead, he graduated with honors from Holy Cross College, and went on to Yale Law School.

Working for Missouri Senator John Danforth, Thomas’s conservative views began to take shape. President Reagan appointed him to head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where Thomas came under fire for opposing affirmative action programs.

President George H.W. Bush appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1989 and two years later, when Thurgood Marshall retired, Bush nominated Thomas for the high court. Civil rights groups opposed him as unworthy to follow Marshall, and former employee Anita Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment. Thomas gained his seat, but just barely—in the closest vote in the 20th century, the Senate confirmed Thomas by just four votes on October 15, 1991, Today in Georgia History.