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In book, justice lashes out at foes

Thomas decries the media, Democrats who fought his nomination, and groups that he says used Anita Hill.

September 29, 2007|From the Washington Post

washington -- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas settles scores in an angry and vivid memoir, scathingly condemning the media, the Democratic senators who opposed his nomination and the "mob" of liberal elites and activist groups who he says desecrated his life.

"My Grandfather's Son" goes on sale Monday. Thomas reportedly received $1.5 million for the 289-page account of his life in rural Georgia, his reliance on religious faith and his rise to the Supreme Court.

His book ends with the day he was sworn in and contains only fleeting mentions of his time on the bench.

Thomas lovingly describes the iron-willed grandfather who raised him after his father abandoned him as a toddler; critically admires the Roman Catholic Church that provided him with an education but was not as "adamant about ending racism then as it is about ending abortion now"; and gives a detailed description of the confirmation hearings that electrified the nation in 1991 and the sexual harassment allegations by Anita Hill that he said destroyed his reputation.

Though he has given numerous speeches since his confirmation to the court, he has rarely mentioned Hill or spoken in detail about the nomination fight.

Thomas writes that Hill was the tool of liberal activist groups "obsessed" with abortion and outraged because he did not fit their idea of what an African American should believe.

"The mob I now faced carried no ropes or guns," Thomas writes of his hearings.

"Its weapons were smooth-tongued lies spoken into microphones and printed on the front pages of America's newspapers. . . .

"But it was a mob all the same, and its purpose -- to keep the black man in his place -- was unchanged."

Thomas, 59, says in the foreword that he wrote the book to "leave behind an accurate record of my own life as I remember it" rather than rely on those "with careless hands or malicious hearts."

He indicates he wrote it himself, with editing help from three others.

The memoir has been eagerly awaited, especially in the conservative community, which is playing an active role in promoting it.

The Heritage Foundation, the Federalist Society and the National Center for Policy Analysis are sponsoring a six-city book tour; patrons will pay $30 to attend events in Thomas' honor.

The normally media-shy justice has interviews booked with "60 Minutes" on Sunday night and with ABC and Rush Limbaugh (the latter for 90 minutes) on Monday.

The book's contents had been closely guarded before its scheduled publication date of Monday, the first day of the Supreme Court's new term, but the Washington Post purchased a copy Friday at a Washington-area bookstore, where it had been placed on display.

Thomas writes of the hard lessons doled out by his grandfather, Myers Anderson, who raised him after his father abandoned the family and his mother was unable to care for her boys in Pin Point, Ga.

"In every way that counts, I am my grandfather's son," Thomas writes.

Thomas' depicts his grandfather as unsparingly tough.

Anderson wouldn't let him play on sports teams or join the Cub Scouts.

Thomas was surprised to learn that when Thomas informed the family he was dropping out of the seminary against the wishes of his grandfather, Anderson retreated to his garage and cried.

His grandfather kicked him out of the house, telling him: "I'm finished helping you. You'll have to figure it out yourself. You'll probably end up like your no-good daddy or those other no-good Pinpoint Negroes."

Throughout the book, Thomas describes himself as under siege -- from preening elites, from light-skinned African Americans, from those who object to his conservative politics.

Feeling under duress from civil rights leaders and despondent over reports about the poor achievement of black students in high school, Thomas writes, he simply sat at his desk at the Department of Education one evening and wept.

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