The Republican-led Senate of Georgia voted on Monday to put up a monument dedicated to conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Georgia native Clarence Thomas.
The decision came following intense debate and objections from multiple black senators, one of whom said Thomas is a “hypocrite and a traitor.”
The monument is set to be funded by private donations and would be constructed somewhere at the state’s Capitol if the measure receives final approval. The idea was approved in the Senate by a vote of 32 to 21 and is headed to the state House for consideration.
Since statues honoring people at the state Capitol have historically been erected after their deaths, some opponents of the Thomas monument said lawmakers should wait at least until his retirement.
State Sen. Nan Orrock, an Atlanta Democrat, said the legislature should wait because it is unknown “what else is going to come up in the lifetime of an individual. You put a statue up to him, you don’t want to be pulling it down later if things go badly, if the person goes astray.”
Former President Jimmy Carter, who is 97-years-old, also has a statue at the state Capitol. State Sen. Ben Watson, a Republican from Savannah who was a co-sponsor for the bill about Thomas, said Carter’s tenure made him worthy of a monument. He noted that the same goes for Thomas.
“I didn’t agree with everything that President Carter did,” Watson said. “He is a great Georgian and a president we should be proud of. I would hope that you would feel the same way about Justice Thomas. He is a wonderful person.”
Thomas was born in Pin Point, Georgia, and he grew up in Savannah. His nomination to the Supreme Court came from President George H.W. Bush in 1991, and Thomas became the court’s second black justice.
Thomas has consistently been one of the most conservative Supreme Court justices, and now is calling on justices to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. But his positions, specifically in opposition of affirmative action and some parts of voting rights legislation, have garnered him criticism.
Democratic state Sen. Nikki Merritt was among the Monday critics. “It’s not that we have a problem that he is a conservative or a Republican,” Merritt, who is also black, said. “We think he’s a hypocrite and a traitor.”
ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: SLS.GMU.EDU