Justice Thomas’s Interesting Memoirs

Supreme Court justices have a politically sensitive job, issuing rulings that are politically charged. As Finley Peter Dunne observed a century ago, the Supreme Court reads the election returns.

That makes justices a lot like politicians. And politicians, who are guarded by nature and obsessed with their reputations, tend to write very dull memoirs. They know that if they write 10 things, and you agree with nine and disagree with one, you’ll remember the one you disagree with most keenly.

Consider former Democratic Congressman and university president John Brademas. His volume of memoirs, Washington, D.C. to Washington Square, is deathly dull, even though his entry in Wikipedia suggests he must lived a rather interesting life. Political correctness can make an autobiography duller than dishwater.

By contrast, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s autobiography, My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir is full of interesting stories and disclosures, including many that a pollster would warn a politician not to reveal, even as it sheds light on the many challenges Clarence Thomas had to overcome growing up in the segregated Deep South.

Here you can find summaries of parts of the book by Jan Crawford Greenburg, one of the few legal reporters who writes about the Supreme Court knowledgeably and without relying on stale cliches or ideological caricatures.