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Hometown Support Is Rock-Solid: Nominee Seen as a Hero Wronged : Credibility: Those who watched Clarence Thomas grow up believe him. Doctor forbade ailing mother to view hearing.

October 12, 1991|LEE MAY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PIN POINT, Ga. — Like an ancient wall of rocks, support for Clarence Thomas Friday stood firm here in his hometown, bolstered by his television appearance and unshaken amid Anita Faye Hill's volley of charges about sexual harassment.

Regardless of what effect the extraordinary Senate confirmation hearings have on the 100 senators and on the rest of America, they change nothing here. In this tiny community of modest homes along the Moon River, nestled among live oaks that drip Spanish moss, Thomas is a wronged hero, and Hill is a spoiler.

In house after house and trailer home after trailer home, television sets lit up rooms and fired up residents as Thomas vigorously denied making unwanted sexual advances toward Hill and she carefully, firmly accused him.

"I believe him," said John Henry Haynes, who lives in a tiny white frame house across the street from the community center. "He looks like he's calm. I'm 100% behind him. The whole community is behind him."

Folks here are willing to attribute Hill's charges to any motivation except a woman's honest effort to expose improper sexual advances.

Shaking his head just after Hill had testified, Haynes, a 78-year-old retired commercial fisherman, said: "She's saying it to keep him from getting to be a (Supreme Court) judge. She may want to go out with him."

While it seemed as if everybody around here was listening to the hearing, there was one notable exception: Thomas's mother, Leola Williams, who lives in nearby Savannah.

Thomas, in his testimony, expressed concern about her health. Reached by telephone, Williams, in a weak voice, said: "I'm not watching anything. I've been having chest pains, and I was told by my doctor not to watch.'

Many of Pin Point's estimated 300 residents knew Thomas as a youth and remembered him as quiet, studious, serious, incapable of trying to seduce a woman with talk of pornography. To suggest such a thing is to make Pin Pointers angry.

"If I was close to her, I don't know what I'd do to her," fumed Mattie Bonneau, 62. "I don't believe nothing she's saying.'

But nobody disbelieved Thomas.

Keeping part of their attention on a skillet of frying sausage and the other on the television set, Jannie Martin and her friend Adelle Anderson shook their heads in the affirmative as Thomas denied Hill's allegations. The two women murmured, "Uh huh" from time to time.

But as for Hill, Martin posed the questions that a visitor heard over and over here: "Why is she bringing this up now? Why did she wait 10 years?"

Isaac Anderson, a 65-year-old retired longshoreman and husband of Adelle, volunteered an answer: "I think it was a push-up. Somebody pushed her up to saying this stuff at the end" of the confirmation process.

Like most everybody else around here, Anderson spoke fondly of Thomas, calling him "a wonderful kid. He was a good-thinking kid."

At Thomas's boyhood home, in heavy disrepair, hard by the salt marshes, a white woman answered the door, identifying herself as Anita Robertson, a friend of the family, and saying that Thomas' sister, Emma Mae Martin lived there but was at work. Martin is employed as a food service worker at a local hospital.

Robertson said she had never met Thomas, but "listening to him talk" during the hearings, she did not believe Hill's charges.

Supporters and friends of Thomas, frustrated and angered by the charges and by the drawn-out hearings, are planning a rally here Sunday.

Ethel Harris, a deli manager, said a group will meet at a local church and march about a mile to the community center "to let Clarence know we are behind him and that we will be behind him."

Amid the anger and frustration, some here wonder just how much more Thomas can or will take.

Rosa Lee Jones, a disabled nurse's aide, looked up from pumping gasoline and said: "If it was me, I'd get up and go home. I wouldn't put up with the aggravation."

Even his staunch supporters here acknowledge that proving Thomas' innocence will be as difficult as proving his guilt. In the end, many say, it will come down to Thomas' word against Hill's.

Some fear that doubts will damage Thomas even if he decides to stick around until he is confirmed, while others worry about how much one man's psyche can tolerate.

"I think the man has had enough of everything," said Mattie Bonneau, sounding exasperated on Thomas' behalf. "All this shoving and pushing and trying to figure out what he did way back when and looking at his private life. . . . It's just so much a person can take. He's had his share."

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