Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas lectured at Memorial Hall Thursday in hopes of demystifying the Supreme Court.
It is in rare occasion that Thomas speaks to a university, said law professor Joshua Douglas.
“My wife told me to stop writing lectures,” Thomas said. “She told me people were bored by it.”
The audience seemed anything but bored as he spoke on his memoir, his life in law and his personal life.
President Eli Capilouto introduced Thomas, and spoke about the connections they have with living in southern sister states of Alabama and Georgia.
“I’m honored by your willingness and enthusiasm to visit the Bluegrass,” Capilouto said. “You will have a profound impact on the collegiate excellence of this university.”
After his introduction, Capilouto presented Thomas with a gift: a UK men’s basketball national championship T-shirt.
“At this point I feel it would be conventional to congratulate the University of Kentucky on its eighth championship,” Thomas said. “It seems the Supreme Court and this university have both had an exciting March.”
As part of the Ray Lecture, the College of Law brings a prominent member of law to UK annually.
“Justice Clarence Thomas is at the top of the profession,” Douglas said. “This is providing them with an understanding for the professionalism of law.”
The main point he addressed was how to keep the retention rate in law schools.
“It all comes down to the question of whether the insitution is there to help the students or the professors,” Thomas said.
Stefan Bing, editor-in-chief of the Kentucky Law Journal, highlighted on why Thomas was vital to the UK College of Law.
“People are quick to blame the schools for the drop in law school rates,” Bing said. “Clarence Thomas was able to clarify that to the audience today.”
Bing is hoping to push the College of Law to the forefront of law schools in the country.
“The school is trying to go out of its way to make it accessible to the students,” Bing said.
This is the 13th annual Ray Lecture at UK.
“My hope is that Justice Thomas gives the students a sense of their role in society as leaders and what that means,” Douglas said.
Thomas has been on the Supreme Court since 1991 when he was inducted by the former President George H. W. Bush.
“So many people were recharacterizing my life at that point,” Thomas said. “I wanted my son to know where I came from and how I got to that point.”
In 2007, he wrote a memoir titled “My Grandfather’s Son.”
He spoke on how his grandfather was the most essential and vital part of his life growing up.
Thomas carried with him a sense of humor and civility that he said he shares with his colleagues.
“In all the years I have worked in the Supreme Court, I have never heard one unkind voice,” Thomas said. “With the issues we cover, you could never have nine people with no judicial rule sit in a room and make that decision without raising their voices.”
One of the panelists asked Thomas if the decision is ever easy just because the court reached a unanimous voice.
“Usually the unanimous decisions are the ones that took the most effort and time to decide,” Thomas said.
He said the most surprising thing about his job is finding out the “decency of the institution.”
“I would have never guessed how honest the institution is,” Thomas said. “It is an honor to be able work with (my colleagues).”
Thomas uses this honesty to provide students with the truth behind law and how to progress within the institution.
“Justice Thomas provided the finishing touches to show the students how important it is to go into law school and further their career,” Bing said. “He is their inspiration.”