Memoirs Are Made of This: A Book Bash for Justice Clarence Thomas

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, right, gets a hug from party host Armstrong Williams. The Cheneys are in the background.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, right, gets a hug from party host Armstrong Williams. The Cheneys are in the background. (By Carol Guzy -- The Washington Post)
By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 4, 2007

Full of broad smiles, backslaps and bonhomie, the usually taciturn Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was outspoken last night at a soiree celebrating his just-published memoir "My Grandfather's Son." The party was at the Capitol Hill home of conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, who told the scores of people that this is Thomas's first book.

"My last book," Thomas bellowed to much laughter.

Surrounded by friends and fellow conservatives, such as Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund and radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, Thomas engaged in pleasant small talk and posed for pictures. He had an easygoing manner and deep resonant voice. Danny Glover should play him in the movie version.

A parade of justices -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, Antonin Scalia -- wished him well. Thomas turned to wave at Chief Justice John Roberts. "Thanks, chief, for coming by," Thomas said.

He shook his head when speaking to columnist Cal Thomas and said of the publishing process: "You can have this business. I'll be glad when it's over."

Naomi Earp, chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said of her former boss: "This is a wonderful, smart human being. What he has done for his people -- he is committed to justice, committed to black people."

Williams said that Thomas told him one day he would write a book and set the record straight about the alleged sexual harassment that dominated his confirmation hearings. "That day has come," Williams said.

"People assume in reading the book that there's bitterness, there's anger," he said, but Williams doesn't believe Thomas has carried that sentiment with him all this time. The emotions arose when Thomas "had to go back and resurrect and regurgitate what happened. A lot of those feelings came back."

But, Williams added, "that's not where he is now. He just did what he had to do. I have never seen him happier or more at peace."

Taking a break from shaking hands, Thomas said he enjoys getting out and meeting people. But he doesn't particularly like talking about himself; "I love talking to people about different walks of life."

Sure enough, in the wide-ranging and deeply-interested-in-everything manner of Bill Clinton, Thomas dispensed advice to a Howard law school student. "Discipline," he said, is what separates the great law students from average ones. "It's all about discipline."

When he met chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley, Thomas told him that he wants to learn to play the game. Economist "Thomas Sowell," he told Ashley, "is a great chess player."

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