Justice John Charles Thomas Book Launch

The Poetic Justice: A Memoir book cover on the left and headshot of Judge Thomas on the right

Please join Justice John Charles Thomas as he discusses his book The Poetic Justice: A Memoir. Dean and Harold H. Greene Professor of Law Dayna Bowen Matthew will interview Justice Thomas about his life leading up to becoming the first Black justice on the Supreme Court of Virginia.


About the Author

The Honorable John Charles Thomas is a retired justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia and a retired Senior Partner of the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth. A native of Norfolk VA, he attended the segregated public schools of that city until 1965 when he enrolled at the formerly all-white Maury High School and later entered the University of Virginia in September 1968 as one of three African Americans in the entering class of 1,400 students; at that time the University of Virginia (UVA) was still all-male.

Thomas finished UVA in 1972 earning his BA with distinction. Thomas next enrolled in law school at UVA which he finished in 1975. That same year, Thomas became the first African American lawyer hired by the formerly all-white Richmond law firm Hunton Williams Gay and Gibson. In 1982, he made partner at Hunton and Williams making him the first African American lawyer in American history to “go up the line” from associate to partner at a formerly all-white Southern law firm.

On April 11, 1983, Governor Charles Robb appointed Thomas to the Supreme Court of Virginia, thus making Thomas the first African American and, at 32 years of age, the youngest Justice in the history of Virginia. In late 1989 a medical problem caused Thomas to leave the court and after his recovery, Thomas returned to the Hunton law firm as Chief of the Appellate Practice group. He remained at the firm until his retirement in 2021.

Thomas has served on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the American Arbitration Association and the College of William and Mary. Since 2004 he has been a judge of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne Switzerland which rules on violations of the World Anti-doping Code for all Olympic sports, for the Tour de France, and for FIFA. Thomas taught Appellate Advocacy at the University of Virginia School of Law. In 2019 he was the “Jurist in Residence” at the Gonzaga Law School in Spokane, WA. Thomas is an honorary Trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation that owns and operates Monticello.