Justice Clarence Thomas’ booming voice filled the Supreme Court chamber Monday afternoon, as he took time off from the last month of the term to give a wide-ranging talk and publicly question where the rumors of his retirement come from.
“People can say things about you and for you that have nothing to do with you,” Thomas told an audience attending an event sponsored by the Supreme Court Historical Society in the ornate chamber.
“I enjoy being here, I enjoy my work,” he said.
Thomas was never directly asked by the moderator, David Rubenstein, whether he planned to step down sometime soon, but the 70-year-old justice recounted that his wife had come down the stairs recently reading an account that he was planning to go.
“People just wanted me to know what I was going to do,” he said.
He outlined his summer plans traveling in the “neighborly” atmosphere of RV parks – taking advantage of discounts for senior citizens – and escaping the “rarefied” atmosphere of Washington with his wife and two dogs in tow. He says he enjoys the relative anonymity of traveling through states in his RV that some people instead “fly over,” although every once in a while he’s asked whether he is aware that he resembles Clarence Thomas.
Asked what he does to relieve stress, he joked: “I really don’t have a lot of stress. I cause stress.”
He spoke about the “myths” people create about others’ lives and mentioned he’d heard that a current exhibit at the Smithsonian misstates the origins of his beliefs about affirmative action. Rubenstein, who sits on the Board of Regents, promised to look into the matter.
When the Smithsonian Institution opened a major museum in 2016 meant to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans, to the outrage of those close to Thomas it almost entirely ignored the achievements of a justice who had risen from poverty to serve on the highest court in the land.
Since then the exhibits have changed.