Justice Thomas was appointed an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by President George Bush and took his seat in October 1991. He is the second African American to serve on the Supreme Court. Justice Thomas has previously served as a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, having been appointed to the federal bench in 1990.
A native of Pin Point, Georgia, Justice Thomas attended Conception Seminary and received an A.B., cum laude, from Holy Cross College and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1974. He was admitted to law practice in Missouri in 1974, and served as an assistant attorney general of Missouri from 1974 to 1977. He served as an attorney with the Monsanto Company from 1977 to 1979, and then served as a legislative assistant to Missouri Senator Senator John Danforth from 1979 to 1981. From 1981 to 1982, he served as assistant secretary for civil rights with the U.S. Department of Education. He was chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1982 to 1990, when he was appointed to the federal bench.
The Cecil Sims Lecture was established in 1972 to “bring to the Vanderbilt Law School distinguished men and women with extensive legal experience to associate informally with faculty and students.” Past Sims Lecturers have included U.S. Attorney Generals Eric Holder, Elliott L. Richardson, Griffin Bell, William French Smith, Edwin Meese II and Janet Reno, and Supreme Court Justices William H. Rehnquist, Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen G. Breyer.
The Sims Lecture Series honors Cecil Sims, a 1914 first-honor graduate of Vanderbilt Law School and a founding member of the Nashville law firm, Bass Berry and Sims. Sims served on Vanderbilt University’s Board of Trust for 26 years and served the law school as a lecturer, president of the alumni association, and close friend of faculty members and students. He was a dominant figure in the reopening of the Vanderbilt Law School after World War II and in the acquisition of the present law building. The lecture series, which honors his contributions to Vanderbilt and the legal profession, is made possible through the generosity of the Sims family.
Justice Thomas’ talk is open to the Vanderbilt community. However, due to security measures, seating in Flynn Auditorium is by invitation only. Overflow seating with a live video feed will be available in the Renaissance Room for members of the Vanderbilt community only. All attendees must undergo a security screening and show a valid Vanderbilt ID. Backpacks, purses, cellphones, laptops and other recording devices will not be permitted.