A new book about Justice Clarence Thomas reveals not only a great jurist, but a man of deep faith, humanity and passion. The Daily Citizen sat down with author Mark Paoletta, who along with his co-author, Michael Pack, have created a most unusual type of biography, Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words. The following interview has been edited for length.
DC: Mark, this is not a typical biography where the author, or in this case authors, research a person and then write about him. Would you explain for our readers what makes this book so unique?
MP: The book is an intimate conversation with Justice Thomas about his life, his jurisprudence, his journey, everything under the sun.
In 2016, after many, many attacks, over the years, including various movies that were made that were anti-Justice Thomas, I and some other friends of the Justice wanted to try and make a movie that was fair, a documentary that was would be fair and present this extraordinarily American life. So we connected up with Michael Pack, who is a first rate documentary filmmaker, and he was interested in making a film on Justice Thomas. And so that movie was released in 2020. And in making that movie, which was of the same name, Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in his Own Words, Michael Pack had this sort of great insight and genius to decide, “I’m not going to make a traditional documentary about Clarence Thomas, where you interview people on one side, you interview people on the other side, and then you have a little bit of Clarence Thomas in there.”
He thought the better way to go was to – because of Justice Thomas’ unique life, or inspiring life and unique voice – to just concentrate on interviewing him, and then at Justice Thomas’s suggestion, actually, his wife, Ginni. So Michael Pack was able to interview Clarence Thomas for 25 hours, over six sessions with him about four hours apiece and Ginni Thomas for six hours. And this was back in 2017 and 2018.
And at the end, it’s a wonderful, powerful movie, just a spectacular movie. But you know, 95% of the interviews were on the cutting room floor. And I thought it would be a crime to kind of leave it there. So I had the idea of putting it together into a book, and coming up with a much longer version of that interview. And so that’s what this new book is.
DC: What makes Justice Clarence Thomas a compelling subject for the reader?
MP: He’s the most fiercely independent thinker you will ever meet. And he is somebody who has gone through trials and tribulations, and I think the reader will identify with him. Again, Justice Thomas was born under incredibly difficult circumstances and then [experienced] all of these challenges through his life.
And learning and having failures and having challenges and doubts. People [tend to] think, “Oh, you’re on the Supreme Court, you must have it all made.” [But] when you read his life, his account of his life, it’s just so inspiring.
DC: It is kind of a journey of faith for him, isn’t it?
MP: One hundred percent.
DC: My favorite part of the book was the effort that you and Michael took to humanize the justice. We’re perhaps used to reading about him and reading his opinions. But we don’t know much about his life, other than on the bench. And I thought you two did a stellar job of letting us inside the man and allowing us to understand him for who he is.
MP: You know, I helped Michael on it, but there was his genius in terms of making that film, the book and putting all that together. And I agree with you. Having been friends with Justice Thomas and seeing, when anyone meets Clarence Thomas, loves Clarence Thomas. He’s got a big booming laugh. He’s just joyful, and he laughs and he has a great time engaging with people on whatever their topic of interest is.
So that’s part of the reason why – going back to why we wanted to make the film – was to be able to have the American people see this guy who’s a great friend, but also this American hero. Because I’ve been out on his bus a ton, you know on road trips. He’s a regular guy who loves America and traveling America and doing what you consider regular things: grilling, hanging out with friends, going to different historical things to learn.
He’s a voracious reader. It’s just mind boggling to me, the number of books he’s reading at any given time that he brings up in our conversations. And, he’s got a thirst for knowledge and engaging with people.
DC: What do you think Justice Thomas’s biggest impact on the law has been up to this point? Or to ask it a different way, what will his judicial legacy ultimately be when he leaves the court, in your opinion?
MP: I think Justice Thomas is our greatest justice. And he’s our most important justice, by far, in the modern times. That’s because he has been the most committed originalist, which is somebody who is committed to applying the original meaning of the Constitution, or with the text of a statute, and not substituting your own judgment.
And he’s done that unapologetically and ferociously and he’s laid down a body of work over these 30 years.
DC (final note) – The book covers everything from Justice Thomas’ birth and early years in Pin Point, Georgia, to being raised by his grandparents, to his journey to the Supreme Court, including the confirmation hearings and the Anita Hill controversy, and the years since. The book is a must-read for any fan of Justice Thomas.
Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words is available from Regnery Publishing and wherever books are sold.