U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has a 15-cent price tag stuck to his Yale law degree, blaming the school’s affirmative action policies in the 1970s for his difficulty finding a job after he graduated.
Thomas’ new autobiography, “My Grandfather’s Son,” shows how the second black justice on the Supreme Court came to oppose affirmative action after his law school experience. He was one of about 10 blacks in a class of 160 who had arrived at Yale after the unrest of the 1960s, which culminated in a Black Panther Party trial in New Haven that nearly caused a large-scale riot.
The conservative justice says he initially considered his admission to Yale a dream, but soon felt he was there because of his race. He says he loaded up on tough courses to prove he was not inferior to his white classmates but considers the effort futile. He says he was repeatedly turned down in job interviews at law firms after his 1974 graduation.
“I learned the hard way that a law degree from Yale meant one thing for white graduates and another for blacks, no matter how much any one denied it,” Thomas writes. “I’d graduated from one of America’s top law schools, but racial preference had robbed my achievement of its true value.”
Thomas says he stores his Yale Law degree in his basement with a 15-cent sticker from a cigar package on the frame.