Four years ago, Thomas was about the only conservative celebrating her rise to chief justice along with Atlanta’s cadre of civil rights veterans, and it made for some discomfort. The Rev. Joseph Lowery, the longtime leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, quickly called Sears to congratulate her but also let her know that he would not attend her swearing-in because Thomas would be there.
“I was a little disappointed,” Lowery said.
State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, also begged off. “I would have been a hypocrite to go up there, skin and grin, smile and shake hands,” he said. His deep disdain for Thomas trumped pride in Sears’s accomplishment. “[I] don’t think we have any black people on the Supreme Court. It’s not just the pigmentation of skin. It is philosophy, and even though Justice Thomas has our skin, he really does not vote the way African Americans would have him vote.”