Clarence Thomas: A Biography

By Andrew Peyton Thomas | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
The Strongest Man in the World

Clarence and Myers Thomas would come to call their grandparents "Daddy" and "Aunt Tina." The names were revealing. "Daddy" was the standard Southern word for father, even among adults. This name dispelled any question as to who had filled M.C.'s shoes. "Tina" was short for Christina. The title "aunt"—pronounced, in the black tradition, not like the insect but with the "a" sound in "father"—acknowledged that she was not a grandmother by blood. In fact, it bespoke a certain thoughtful diplomacy and decorum on her part in handling her relationship with the children.

The grandfather who became "the greatest single influence on my life" impressed his will on Clarence as soon as he moved in. There would be no more aimless and unattended wandering of the streets, no more hours frittered away watching the urban hurly-burly and skipping school. Clarence had entered an environment that revolved around work, education and faith, and a household immersed in rules, discipline, labor and learning to an extent remarkable even by the standards of the rigorous decade in which he came of age. His first year in Savannah had been one of almost boundless liberty, a reckless arrangement sanctioned by his parents. The remainder of his years in this city of quaint squares and omnipresent tradition would be just as extreme, but of the opposite quality—order.

The two Thomas boys became, in effect, the littlest employees of Anderson Fuel Company and its affiliate, the Anderson household. Anderson had started his company after striking out on his own and moving to Savannah to earn more money and assert his independence. The bigotry he encountered at the hands of his first employers during this time singed his substantial pride and further reinforced his yearning for self-employment. Anderson told two stories as to why he decided

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