The Elite Circle Clarence Thomas Entered That Led to the Supreme Court

“David and Peggy Sokol hosted us in Montana for a ranch visit and tour of Yellowstone,” the Thomases said in the letter, which was reviewed by The Times. The Thomases brought along their dog, Petey, who played with the Sokols’ dog, Bodie. They wrote: “Bodie showed Petey how to be a ranch dog, without a leash! LIBERTY!”

The trip, they concluded, was “pure heaven for all of us!”

The Clarence Thomas origin story begins in a dirt-floor shack in Pin Point, a tiny community founded by formerly enslaved people in the salt marsh lands outside Savannah.

When he is 20, after a brief spell in a Roman Catholic seminary, it continues at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., where he is one of a small group of young Black men who integrate the school. There, in the spring of 1971, his senior year, he receives a letter from Yale Law School. He worries that the thin envelope means a rejection. But one of the nation’s most elite law schools wants him.

“My heart raced and my spirits lifted,” Justice Thomas wrote in his autobiography.

At Yale, he was one of only 12 Black students in his law school class, admitted the year the law school introduced an affirmative action plan. His white classmates viewed him as a token, he felt — a belief in the corrosive effects of affirmative action that was only deepened by his failure to win the law firm job he had dreamed of.

“I’d graduated from one of America’s top law schools, but racial preference had robbed my achievement of its true value,” he later wrote. Separately, he described leaving Yale as a new father, with a “swirling combination of frustration, of some disappointments, of some anxiety about the future, and some anxiety about how I would repay my student loans, how I would feed a young child, where I would live.”

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