One Great American, On Another

Perhaps no one is in as good a position to understand Clarence Thomas as Thomas Sowell, who writes here about Thomas’ new book, My Grandfather’s Son. Sowell begins by noting that “[i]t would be hard to think of anyone whose portrayal in the media differs more radically from the reality than that of Justice Clarence Thomas.” He describes Thomas’ philosophical evolution, pointing out that during Thomas’ militant phase, “when someone gave him a book of mine to read, he threw it in the trash basket.”
It strikes me that most of Sowell’s observations on Thomas would apply equally to Sowell himself. Sowell ridicules the idea that Thomas has “sold out,” pointing out that Thomas would have been far better off financially had he taken a conventional, liberal path. The same is, of course, true of Sowell, who concludes: “Nobody sells out to the lowest bidder.”
Maybe it’s my imagination, but Sowell seems here to be writing about a kindred spirit:

The other great myth about Justice Thomas is that he is a lonely and embittered man, withdrawn from the world, as a result of the brutal confirmation hearings he went through back in 1991.
Clarence Thomas was never a social butterfly. You didn’t see his name in the society pages or at media events, either before he got on the High Court or afterward.
In reality, Justice Thomas has been all over the place, giving talks, especially to young people, and inviting some of them to his offices at the Supreme Court.
Summers find him driving his own bus all around the country, mixing with people at truck stops, trailer parks and mall parking lots. The fact that he is not out grandstanding for the media does not mean that he is hunkering down in his cellar.
Clarence Thomas’ sense of humor is terrific. Whenever I am on the phone with someone and laughing repeatedly, my wife usually asks me afterward, “Was that Clarence?” It usually is.

Sowell and Thomas are two great Americans who have sacrificed a lot to be true to their own hard-won beliefs. Fortunately for all of us, they are still going strong.
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