U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

ATLANTA – The state Senate Tuesday approved a proposal to place a statue of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on the grounds of the state Capitol.  

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah. Watson represents the part of the Savannah area, Pin Point, where Thomas is from.  

“Clarence Thomas … has lived a life marked by tremendous achievement,” Watson said. “[He] deserves a place of honor and recognition on Capitol grounds, a place where future generations of Georgians can … gain inspiration and belief that their lofty dreams are attainable, too, in America, regardless of the circumstances in which they are born.” 

The statue would be funded by private donations, Watson noted.  

The bill drew criticism from Democrats, who pointed out that Thomas is a controversial figure.  

Thomas’ confirmation hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991 were marred by sexual harassment allegations leveled by Anita Hill, a lawyer who had formerly worked under Thomas. His conservative approach to many policy issues, including against affirmative action, has also drawn the ire of many Black Americans.

“I don’t expect people of non-color to get the sensitivity that we feel about a person of color whose policies and practices and decisions and votes … we’ve rallied [to] fight against,” said Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur.  

“Justice Thomas’ decisions have certainly sparked outrage [among] women and not just women of color, but all women,” Jones added. “And certainly, when we look at the LGBTQ+ community, his votes and positions he’s taken have raised outrage in that community as well.”

Democrats also said Thomas’ wife, Ginni, has been accused of encouraging the “stop-the-steal” movement to overturn former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election defeat.  

“At minimum, this bill should be tabled until such time that Justice Thomas and his wife are cleared of collaboration in this dark chapter in our history,” said Sen. Nikki Merritt, D-Grayson. “This is not the type of shame we want to enshrine on Capitol grounds.” 

Despite the opposition, the bill passed easily by a 32-20 party-line vote. It will now move to the Georgia House of Representatives for consideration.

The state Senate passed a similar bill last year, but it failed to reach the floor of the House.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.