A highly touted African-American jurist raised in crippling poverty by his grandmother, Thomas a nominee of President George H.W. Bush appeared to be sailing toward an easy confirmation in 1991. Enter Anita Hill.
A former aide with whom Thomas worked at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a decade earlier, Hill alleged Thomas had subjected her to crude sexual harassment. For weeks, Americans watched, rapt, as the sordid drama played out before the Senate Judiciary Committee and on C-SPAN. Thomas, for his part, denied the allegations, calling the hearings a "high-tech lynching." Ultimately his confirmation squeaked past a deeply divided Senate, 52-48. On the court, he has earned a reputation as a staunch conservative. He's also been by far the court's quietest justice, having declined to ask a question from the bench since 2006.