U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Thomas gained access to ‘wealthy and powerful friends’ through Horatio Alger Association

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Clarence Thomas

Justice Clarence Thomas joined the Horatio Alger Association shortly after he was sworn onto the U.S. Supreme Court in October 1991. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Soon after he joined the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas joined another exclusive group: the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.

The New York Times has a story on the relationship, which had mutual benefits.

On the one hand, Thomas was in some ways the “leading light” of the Horatio Alger Association, the Times reports. On the other hand, Thomas gained access to the group’s “inner circle,” gaining “proximity to a lifestyle of unimaginable material privilege,” the article says.

“Over the years,” the article reports, Thomas’ “Horatio Alger friends have welcomed him at their vacation retreats, arranged VIP access to sporting events and invited him to their lavish parties.”

Several members of the group also financed a favorable documentary about Thomas.

The Horatio Alger Association, formed to bolster belief in the American dream, is named for the author whose books embodied a “rags to riches” theme. It has awarded $245 million in college scholarships. In 2010, it honored Thomas with the Norman Vincent Peale Award, given to members who make “exceptional humanitarian contributions to society” and “exhibit courage, tenacity and integrity in the face of great challenges.”

Thomas has presided over the group’s annual induction ceremony for new members at the U.S. Supreme Court, an event previously held in other venues and presided over by Peale himself. Thomas also “served as the group’s best messenger” by meeting with and mentoring recipients of Horatio Alger college scholarships.

Herschel Walker and Julie Blanchard on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building Justice Clarence Thomas has used the U.S. Supreme Court building to host events for the Horatio Alger Association. In April 2022, Herschel Walker, then a Republican candidate for a Georgia U.S. Senate seat, and his wife, Julie Blanchard, attended the Horatio Alger Association induction ceremony. Walker was one of 16 awardees in 2022.(Photo by Allison Bailey/NurPhoto via AP)

The group has capitalized on the Supreme Court ceremony to raise money for its scholarships, even though the court discourages use of its facilities for fundraising, the Times says.

The Times notes previous coverage of Thomas’ relationship with Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, who paid two years of private school tuition for Thomas’ grandnephew, paid for luxury travel for Thomas and bought property partly owned by Thomas.

The Times concludes that, through the Horatio Alger Association, Thomas received benefits “from a broader cohort of wealthy and powerful friends.”

Thomas’ friends from the group included conservative donors “with broad policy and political interests and much at stake in Supreme Court decisions, even if they were not directly involved in the cases,” the Times says.

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