This inspiring memoir begins in 1983, on the day John Charles Thomas was sworn in as the first Black—and, at thirty-two years of age, the youngest—justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia in the commonwealth’s history. This high point was preceded, however, by a life that began in a home broken by poverty, alcoholism, and violence, and the segregated schools and neighborhoods of postwar Norfolk. How this triumph against such tremendous odds came about is no feel-good story or fable but a real-life journey full of poignant stories.

This eloquent memoir is the work of a man who cares deeply about language. In addition to being a social justice pioneer, Judge Thomas is an accomplished poet who has recited his poetry to a Carnegie Hall audience and who here reflects on his twin loves of poetry and the law. As he chronicles his trajectory from the "wrong side of the tracks" in Norfolk to the supreme court bench in Richmond, he takes us from his difficult beginnings to a professional life as a Virginia lawyer, recounts his international travels, and shares his encounters with world leaders such as Chuck Robb and Mikhail Gorbachev. Thomas’s memoir highlights these lofty meetings but also relates with candor the challenges he encountered as he battled the systemic racism that suffuses U.S. society to this day.

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