Money Isn't Everything
When Thomas sought to switch to corporate law, he applied at large law firms in Missouri's two biggest cities, Kansas City and St. Louis. But he also learned of an enticing opportunity to work for a major corporation in St. Louis. Monsanto was exceptional in that it maintained a sizable stable of "in-house" attorneys, at a starting salary higher than that of any law firm in the state.
Monsanto, moreover, was looking with a very narrow focus. Ned J. Putzell Jr., vice president and general counsel for Monsanto, recalled he was "looking for minority members to put into my law department." He explained: "I had a large number of lawyers there, and I wanted diversity as well. And I set about looking for a female lawyer and a black lawyer, and I ended up hiring both."
An intriguing man in his own right, Putzell grew up a Republican in heavily Democratic Louisiana, then attended Harvard Law School and joined a Wall Street law firm upon graduating. The Second World War intervened, and his charismatic boss at the firm, "Wild" Bill Donovan, persuaded Putzell to follow him to work for the Office of Strategic Services. He served at the OSS headquarters in Washington, coordinating information on the office's clandestine operations (the OSS gathered intelligence and conducted unconventional warfare behind enemy lines). After working for a company in Montana, Putzell settled in St. Louis and rose to prominence in Monsanto, one of the city's major corporations.
Thomas arrived at Monsanto in early January 1977. Wearing one of his better suits, he interviewed with Putzell in the C building. "I was impressed with his background, his origin and what he'd made of himself," Putzell later said. "He was talking about antitrust law at the time. And having spent a lot of time in that field myself, I was also interested