Shelby Steele calls him the “freest black man in America”, and the more I read of the life and worldview of Justice Clarence Thomas as reflected in his new book, My Grandfather’s Son and related interviews, the more I am convinced that he is correct in the purest sense of the word. Here is a man who has battled all the demons of growing up poor and black in the cauldron of the mid-20th century American South and the rage of the 1960’s and lived to be an embodiment of strength and courage of conviction in spite of a long list of grievances that might have withered smaller people. And the key to his perseverance was “the greatest man I have ever known”, his grandfather, whose example of character and hard work sustained over a lifetime became the beacon for his life as well as his judicial philosophy. Some reviewers of this book have been disappointed that it does not include more detailed analysis of his opinions and judicial philosophy, but I beg to differ. The arcane legal details are for another book, but there is no question about his worldview as a constitutional originalist and its source in the founding principles and documents of America, nor is there any doubt about the degree to which these natural law principles were manifest in the living example set by his grandfather.
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