Justice Clarence Thomas Gets Mixed Reaction at Event

Some felt he was the wrong speaker for a courthouse dedication.

Posted: 05/19/2011 09:53 AM EDT
Filed Under Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas

Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas received a very mixed welcome Wednesday during the dedication of the new Augusta, Georgia, courthouse. While many people stood and applauded a noticeable number of audience members stayed quiet in their seats.

 

The reason: the courthouse in the North Georgia city is named after a local African-American civil rights hero, the late John "Jack" Ruffin Jr., who was the first Black member of the Augusta Bar Association and later became the first African-American chief judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals.  

 

Some Black and other members of the audience may remember Ruffin as a battler for equality, and were unhappy that Thomas, a conservative justice with decades-long opposition to affirmative action, was invited to speak at the event.

 

"Look, imagine you invite someone to your house to spend the night and you don't ask your wife, and it may be someone she didn't agree with. Would that go well?" David Watkins, the Richmond County, Georgia, State Court Judge, told the Associated Press.

 

Thomas did not address the issue of his suitability as a speaker during a two-day trip to Augusta. In his remarks at the dedication, Thomas declared that he hoped that the courthouse “will always be a refuge from the shifting tides of public interest."

 

He also said that "Judge Ruffin understood these higher ideals of the law, as a lawyer and a judge."

 

(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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