Our small, soft hands blistered quickly at the start of each summer, but Daddy (the maternal grandfather of Clarence Thomas) never let us wear work gloves, which he considered a sign of weakness. After a few weeks of constant work, the bloody blisters gave way to hard-earned calluses that protected us from pain. Long after the fact, it occurred to me that this was a metaphor for life–blisters come before calluses, vulnerability before maturity.
He never praised us, just as he never hugged us. Whenever my grandmother urged him to tell us that we had done a good job, he replied, “That’s their responsibility. Any job worth doing is worth doing right.”
The family farm and our unheated oil truck became my most important classrooms, the schools in which Daddy passed on the wisdom he had acquired in the course of a long life as an ill-educated, modestly successful black man in the Deep South. Despite the hardships he had faced, there was no bitterness or self-pity in his heart. As for bad luck, he didn’t believe in it.
Justice Clarence Thomas, My Grandfather’s Son
Justice Thomas has called his barely literate grandfather, the late Myers Anderson, who raised him and his brother after his father ran off, the greatest man he has ever known. He taught him the value of hard work, self reliance and a striving to achieve against the odds, essential lessons that too many Americans, no matter how well educated, fail to ever learn.