As a way to thank Professor Eric Williams for teaching her how to think, not what to think, Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJS) student Natalie Wisdom began writing letters to each of the nine Supreme Court Justices in the fall of 2011.
"I heard back from several of the Justices in the weeks following, each envelope containing a different response," she said. Her first response was from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who accepted Wisdom's request for a meeting in Washington, DC. Williams, Wisdom, and three other CCJS students were able to meet with Sotomayor in March 2012 and spent about 30 minutes in her chambers.
Justice Clarence Thomas also responded to Wisdom's letter, agreeing, like Sotomayor, to meet the group during that time but ultimately had to cancel due to a scheduling conflict. Wisdom truly appreciated the opportunity to meet with Sotomayor, but found the failed meeting with Thomas a disappointment.
She did not give up; however, and contacted Thomas again during her final semester as an undergrad at SSU. Thomas agreed, and Williams, Wisdom and Alexis Pomush, a CCJS senior headed to UC Hastings Law School, were scheduled to spend spring break in Washington, DC meeting with Thomas.
"Justice Thomas is an engaging and genuine individual. From the moment we walked into chambers all preconceived stereotypes of who he is as a person were shattered," Wisdom said. "He stressed the importance of teaching students how to think, rather what to think. This is a concept both Alexis and I, along with countless other students who have walked through Dr. Williams' classrooms, are all too familiar with."
Thomas welcomed the trio and began a long conversation with topics ranging from constitutional law to college sports. They were in his chambers for well over an hour, laughing throughout the conversation.
Williams recognizes that both Justice Thomas and Sotomayor make decisions that impact millions of people's lives every day. "I'm just a professor at SSU," he said. "Having him [Thomas] tell me to keep doing what I'm doing in the way that I am, was really a very humbling moment."
"Both meetings were some of the highlights of my teaching career and memories that I will always cherish," Williams said.
ABOVE: (left to right) Criminal Justice Professor Eric Williams visited Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently with SSU students Alexis Pomush and Natalie Wisdom.