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Judging Thomas: The Life and Times of Clarence Thomas Hardcover – August 3, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (August 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060527218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060527211
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,667,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This in-depth look at the life of Clarence Thomas, who has kept a low public profile for over a decade, is a refreshing change. Foskett, a journalist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, focuses on Thomas's growth—from his upbringing at the hands of a strict grandfather through his time at Yale Law School and his eventual, albeit controversial, ascension to the Supreme Court. Relying on a mixture of secondary sources and oral interviews, Foskett delves into Thomas's intellectual development, from a flirtation with black power in college to his embrace of the natural law philosophy that dictates his strict reading of the Constitution. While Foskett leaves no stone unturned in detailing Thomas's history, he occasionally is less effective at connecting the dots: is there a connection between Thomas's strict upbringing, his attendance at religious schools and his hard-line judicial philosophy? Foskett is occasionally critical of Thomas (he notes a scandal that dogged Thomas when he headed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), but mainly argues that Thomas's legal mind has been unfairly criticized because he's a black conservative. Foskett's conclusion that Thomas was likely more truthful at his Senate confirmation hearings than Anita Hill will be a turnoff to some. But those able to suspend political judgment will learn a lot about the court's most controversial justice.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Foskett cracked Justice Thomas’s media-wary shell by approaching him after a Good Friday service. He deserves points for bravery, but most critics agree that this partially authorized biography leaves much to be desired (Thomas did not grant him access to his private papers). It makes sense that the conservative New York Sun would be the lone rave review, since Foskett is highly sympathetic towards Thomas throughout, even defending him against Hill’s charges (she declined to be interviewed for the book). Others excoriate Foskett for not thoroughly examining the strange pattern of anger and ideological shifts that define Thomas’s life; more than one critic called Foskett’s research shoddy. A highlight? Two sitting members of the Supreme Court went on the record (with complimentary remarks) about Thomas.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on August 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Any book about the current Supreme Court's most controversial justice is not going to please everybody. Thomas remains radioactive as a topic even after more than a decade on the Court. The author, an investigative reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, however has written a fairly balanced biography that neither embraces Thomas nor condemns him. In fact, although the author did not have access to the Justice's private papers and correspondence, he did extensively interact with Thomas in covering the Court and in researching this volume. This is not to say the book is without deficiencies. The most notable problem is that a very limited amount of attention is devoted to Thomas's decisions. Instead, readers are referred by the author to Gerber's First Principles: The Jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas for in-depth analysis. The focus here is predominantly biographical and that has strengths and weaknesses in doing a judicial biography. The acid test of any Thomas biography, of course, is the Anita Hill controversy; here the author is somewhat too inclined to stake out an unsatisfying middle position: "Although it was plausible that Thomas said what Hill alleged, it seems implausible that he said it all in the manner Hill described"(at 251). Whatever one's views of Thomas, this book does afford a valuable insight into the forces that shaped him and how he ended up arriving on the Court. It will be interesting to see how Thomas's own forthcoming autobiography addresses the same issues as are covered here.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. McNeely on September 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Several years ago, The Weekly Standard ran a cover story calling Clarence Thomas the most powerful conservative in America. He truly was at that time.

Foskett does a fair job stripping away the controversy and polemic to examine the man, his background, and his life. There is obviously the story of Thomas' confirmation to the Supreme Court, and a fair amount of time is devoted to those few weeks in the Justice's life. Far more interesting than that is his life before Washington, and before the political appointments, while he was still growing up under the stern eye of his grandfather, Myers Anderson.

Without understanding the world that incubated Thomas it is impossible to understand why he could view the world and the American judicial system as he does. To understand Clarence Thomas more fully one must understand Myers Anderson, the dominant force in his early years. Foskett accounts for the apartheid caste system of the Jim Crow south that trapped and warped so many people.

Passionate reactions about Thomas will exist for a long, long time. His ideas stand on their own merit. This book truly gives the reader a glimpse at the humanity of a man who thinks for himself and will set the judicial tenor of the court for years to come.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Steve Iaco on September 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Few people are dispassionate about Clarence Thomas, but the author manages to hold passion in abeyance in presenting a well balanced -- and in many ways, inspirational -- review of the Supreme Court Justice's life and times. Love him or loathe him, it's hard for any reader not to come away from this book with enhanced respect for Thomas. . . for his success in overcoming obstacles in Jim Crow southern Georgia; for his equanimity and courage during the Senate confirmation process; and for the personal warmth and compassion that he masks behind a taciturn, often dour public demeanor. The author goes to great lengths to show how the values forged by Thomas's grandfather, Myers Anderson -- self-reliance, industriousness, relentless work ethic, pride, individual charity, skepticism toward government -- have helped to inform the Justice's worldview. The reader does not have to march in lockstep with Thomas's views to admire his Horatio Alger lifestory.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Pauley on August 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Nicely written, engrossing and fair account of Justice Thomas. Foskett traces Thomas' formative upbringing and experiences in the American south. Thomas' life is an example of overcoming issues like poverty, family dysfunction, racial and personal challenges by strong character and self-determination. These factors translate to his mostly conservative worldview, his judicial outlook (sometimes based on a bit of natural law), and his court opinions. Nice development here of the strong side of Thomas: always ready to meet a fight head-on and act on his philosophy with dignity and integrity.
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By Jean on July 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
We can learn much from good biographies, not just about the subject of the biography, but about the times in which he/she lived and, more broadly, about human nature itself. Ken Foskett’s biography of Justice Thomas maybe such a book. Foskett shows objectivity and balance with no political bias. The book is well researched based on the usual searches of archives, etc. but also on interviews with family members, friends, associates and Thomas himself. Foskett reveals that beneath the silent, often brooding exterior is a man of depth, empathy, and wit. Thomas rose from poverty in the segregated south, he had experienced discrimination first hand and a man who started school to be a priest but ended up graduating from law school instead is a fascinated story.
I keep asking myself, how did Thomas obviously talented, who benefited throughout his academic and professional life from affirmative action, become the courts most ardent advocate of absolute color blindness in the law? Most people who have experienced in life what Thomas has have become liberals. Why did Thomas become an extreme conservative? I have read the biographies of O’Connor, Ginsburg and Sotomayor who also fought discrimination and benefitted from affirmative action. They appear grateful for affirmative action and look at it positively. Ginsburg like Thomas had great difficulties obtain a job after law school due to discrimination, Thomas because he was black and Ginsburg because she was a Jewish woman. Both overcame the obstacles and advanced their career in spite of this discrimination. How can he have become the current court’s staunchest adherent to the so-called original intent of the constitutional framers, when so many of these framers would have seen him as less than a man?
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