After 30 years, Clarence Thomas now ‘the most important justice’

Nearly 30 years to the day that Clarence Thomas won a hard-fought Senate vote to become the Supreme Court’s 106th justice, his publisher is releasing audio and Kindle versions of his bestselling autobiography that describes his path from poor black child to the top of the legal world.

Harper is reviving My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir for his anniversary as Thomas has become what many court-watchers call “the most important justice,” in part because he is currently the longest-serving judge and because he is the voice of originalism.

Oct. 15 marks the anniversary of the 52-48 vote in 1991 to confirm Thomas. He was sworn in days later.

And despite regular rumors that he is eyeing retirement, friends said he is eager to begin the next term and plans to beat the record for longest-serving justice at 36 years.

“We look forward to him passing that mark down the road,” longtime friend Mark Paoletta, an influential Washington lawyer and former administration aide, told Secrets.

Paoletta, who worked on Thomas’s nomination for former President George H.W. Bush, said Thomas has emerged as the key judge in the conservative majority — a role he relishes.

He said the audio version of the 13-year-old autobiography was actually recorded when the book was published but that, at the time, audio and digital versions of books weren’t popular.

So, he said, the audio was remastered into the new release.

It is considered a companion to the 2020 movie on Thomas, titled Created Equal,from writer and director Michael Pack.

The new releases gave some of Thomas’s 140 former clerks a chance to brag on their boss.

Carrie Severino, the chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, told Secrets the book came out the year she clerked for Thomas. “This is a must-read American dream story about how a young boy, abandoned by his father and raised in poverty, reached the highest levels of his profession and became the intellectual leader of the Supreme Court,” she said.

Jennifer Mascott, co-executive director of the C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University, said, “Justice Thomas has been an intellectual leader and tour de force in returning the focus of our constitutional system to first principles. He repeatedly writes more pages of opinions each term than any of his colleagues on the court, setting forth interpretive principles of originalism and expounding a constitutionally restrained portrait of the law that forms the foundation of American liberty and freedom.”

And the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law’s John Yoo added, “Justice Clarence Thomas tells us in his own voice the challenges of growing up in the 1950s in Pin Point, Georgia, going off to college as a confused young man during the turbulent 1960s, and his rapid rise in Missouri, Washington, D.C., and eventually the Supreme Court. A quintessential American story told by a great American himself.”

The Thomas clerks are considered one big extended family. Every three years, Thomas holds a reunion, and the last one included 100 of his 140 clerks.