A Tribute to a Father by a Famous Figure

Father’s Day is not in the pantheon of greatness as is Mother’s Day. Well, I guess that statement is debatable, but I think you understand what I mean. Mother’s Day garners much more commercial and cultural attention that the recognition of the dads on their special day.

For Father’s Day I want to share with you a tribute to a father, or more technically a grandfather. It is a book authored by Clarence Thomas. The book is about the famous Supreme Court justice, but it is also a recognition of how much influence this father figure had in his life.

My Grandfather’s Son is one of the best biographical books I have ever read. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has written his memoirs as essentially a tribute to his grandfather whom he called “Daddy.” Justice Thomas was born just a few years after World War II into a Jim Crow South, which was not at all an advantageous time for a young Black child. 
His biological father abandoned him and the rest of the family. His mother was unable to care for the children alone, so Clarence and his brother were brought into the home of his grandparents. This was a huge turning point for the man who would become the second African-American to occupy a seat on the U.S Supreme Court.

“Daddy” was a strict disciplinarian who was always seeking to teach Clarence and his brother, Myers, the basics of making their way in life. In this home, Clarence Thomas learned the difference between entitlement and empowerment. From his grandfather, he learned that preparation to do a job and hard work in doing a good job made all the difference in the world.

Yes, the book does chronicle the brutal confirmation process and the controversy which was caused by the circus-type atmosphere which has become so common in the arena of the political process. However, Thomas does not dwell on this to the point of a diatribe. He reveals his agony and anguish concerning what he considered to be poor treatment, but he also admits that he was not the first to be subjected to such humiliation.

Throughout the memoirs, Clarence Thomas gives credit to the people who made a difference in his life. He freely admits the mistakes of espousing radical views early in life and to an attitude which did not always show respect to the “Daddy” who was responsible for supporting him at a crucial time. Yet, there is a sense of gratitude which pervades the whole story of his eventful and productive life.

How will history judge Clarence Thomas? That does not seem to be the question for this book. Rather, the thesis is best stated in the last words written, which constitute a prayer the justice uttered when he took his oath of office, “Lord, grant me the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do it.” I believe he learned this prayer from the man he called “Daddy.”

Executive Director of Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions

State Missionary Rick Lance was elected in June of 1998 to serve as executive director of the State Board of Missions and treasurer of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Rick leads state missions efforts and facilitates Great Commission Ministries for the Convention's 3,200+ churches and more than one million Alabama Baptists.

Rick and his wife, Pam, are members at First Baptist Church, Montgomery. They have two daughters.

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