The second black member of the high court is viewed as something of an enigma when it comes to his rulings on integration and affirmative action, The New York Times reported Monday.
The newspaper said the authors of a biography of Thomas, "Supreme Discomfort," suggest his skepticism about integration is a product of his own unhappy journeys through a mostly white seminary in Georgia and Yale Law School.
Those experiences might shed light on why he recently suggested the concept of integration is inherently demeaning to black children because it implies they need to mix with whites in order to achieve excellence.
The dean of Howard University Law School, Kurt L. Schmoke, told the Times Thomas is not easily understood.
"He's more complex than many have given him credit for in the past," he said.
Thomas' personal memoir, "My Grandfather's Son," is set for publication this fall.