I have a scoop: u.s. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the longtime woman in his life, Ginni Thomas, were married recently in a small, private ceremony in a steak house in Tysons Comer, Virginia. Well, actually, they were married long before they got there and were, in fact, out to celebrate their anniversary. He handed her a small box containing a ring, a perfect duplicate of the wedding band he had placed on her finger exactly ten years before. He put the thin gold band with the diamond chips on her finger and said, “With this ring, I thee wed. Will you marry me all over again?” She said yes.
They toasted with zinfandel (hers) and water (his). Now she wears both rings together.
Most of America doesn’t see Clarence Thomas in such private moments. We last saw him six years ago, during one of the most public and controversial political hearings in American history. He was nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court and quickly accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill. During the murky welter of charges leveled, I believed him and not her. They both described different realities in their personal and professional relationships. Having heard the testimony, I came, in time, to an almost paradoxical conclusion: that he was telling the truth, not she, but also that even if I were wrong, her charges did not warrant the end of his nomination.
Since then, Clarence Thomas has settled in on the court and Ginni Thomas has settled in as a powerful presence on Capitol Hill, working for House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas). And Anita Hill has a new book out, a memoir of the hearings and her life.
I first met Ginni Thomas 12 years ago when she was still Ginni Lamp. I always liked her, and though I haven’t seen her in five years, she strikes me as exactly the same. When I ask Ginni if she dreads the Hill book tour and the spate of interviews and editorials that will appear, she says no; she will be focusing on other things, like having more time with Clarence now that his son and her stepson, Jamal, has left the house for work and school.
As Ginni looks back on the hearings now, she says that the trauma of those days strengthened her faith and deepened her marriage. Pain, she learned, doesn’t have to be a destroyer. It can be a character builder. Will she ever forgive Anita Hill?
“Yeah,” she says softly. “I’ve forgiven Anita Hill. I’m still optimistic that one day she will apologize to my husband.” Still, she says, “If I lived my whole life consumed by an injury, I wouldn’t be able to live fully the life God wants for me.
“Talking about it can make me cry,” she continues. “I remember crying to God, ‘Why doesn’t justice prevail?’ But now I’m glad. He teaches you patience, He teaches you character. And you wait for justice. I came to Washington far too naive. But the real battle is holding on to your idealism in this town.”
Is she still an idealist?
She smiles. “Some days more than others.”
She once thought she’d run for office. (In 1986, as Virginia Lamp, a Washington, DC, attorney, she was chosen as one of Good Housekeeping’s 28 Young Women of Promise, and she dreamed of running for Congress.) Does she still? “Probably not. The cost is too great.”
By that she means the new brutality in politics-the muckraking that goes too deep into the muck, or invents muck. She takes no comfort in the Paula Jones scandal, gets no satisfaction in seeing the Democrats bruised by the same furies unleashed during her husband’s hearings. Whatever the truth in the recent scandals, she says, “from a broader point of view, you have to be concerned about what is happening to our government. As a tool of political power, to make false accusations against innocent people-the toll is enormous.”
She worries, too, about race in America. Too many people, she feels, “are speaking out of fear and ignorance.” Her own perspective is very personal. “I don’t see my husband as black. I’ve never put up barriers in my life that don’t make sense. When we met, I was so drawn to his integrity, his values, his intelligence.”
In spite of all she’s been through, she still considers herself a lucky woman. “I think Clarence is the best man walking the face of the earth. I’m so happy when people meet my husband and see the truth of him.”