Thomas at Dedication Creates Controversy; Some Take Issue with the Supreme Court Justice's Philosophy

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Byline: SANDY HODSON and SYLVIA COOPER

AUGUSTA, Ga. - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has agreed to attend the dedication of Augusta's new Judicial Center and Judge John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse in the spring, a local judge said, but not everyone is happy about it.

J. Carlisle Overstreet, the Superior Court chief judge for the Augusta Judicial Circuit, said that he has been in contact with Thomas' staffers and that they have accepted. Overstreet said he first conferred with City Administrator Fred Russell, who then spoke to Mayor Deke Copenhaver about the invitation.

Overstreet said the city "hit pay dirt" with Thomas' acceptance.

Some African-Americans disagree with Overstreet: They oppose the choice of Thomas and question why it was made with little input from others.

"I feel Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' judicial philosophy contradicts Judge Ruffin's judicial philosophy and works," said Quincy Murphy, the chairman of the Richmond County legislative delegation. "And I would have hoped that some consideration would have been given to the person they named the courthouse after - Georgia Appeals Court Chief Judge John H. 'Jack' Ruffin."

Retired educator Tracy Williams said Thomas is a hypocrite because he benefited from the very things he opposes - affirmative action, the public-accommodations law of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill and the integration of public schools.

One of Ruffin's close friends, Mallory Millender, said he knows of no one whom Ruffin held in greater contempt than Thomas.

"I know of no way we could dishonor John Ruffin more than to have Clarence Thomas speak for this occasion," he said.

Russell said it is fairly common to ask the Supreme Court justice who is from the district to attend dedications of judicial facilities. …