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Friday, May 24, 2024

Barrier-Breaking Justice to Speak at William & Mary’s 2024 Commencement

(Photo by John Charles Thomas Jr.)

WILLIAMSBURG — Judge John Charles Thomas, the first African American and youngest appointee to the Supreme Court of Virginia, will speak at the William & Mary’s May 17 Commencement ceremony, the university announced.

Thomas, a former William & Mary Board of Visitors member for nearly 12 years and retired senior partner of the Hunton Andrews and Kurth law firm, will deliver the address at 7 p.m. in Zable Stadium.

Thomas, who is already an honorary alumnus of the university, will receive an honorary degree.

“A dear friend to this university, Judge Thomas has called William & Mary students to ‘be magnificent builders in your whole lives.’ He models that type of leadership with his own life. His accomplishments are built on cornerstones of integrity, excellence, service and belonging,” said President Katherine A. Rowe.

“Judge Thomas is also one of our generation’s most exceptional orators. He will inspire our graduates as they embark on lives of meaning and distinction, bolstered by their William & Mary education.”

Thomas, 73, is a 1995 recipient of the NAACP’s Lifetime Image Award. He was both the first African American and youngest appointee to the Supreme Court of Virginia.

In addition to his work in the judicial system, the university notes Thomas is a poet who has worked closely with W&M faculty on a variety of creative projects, and his address coincides with the university’s Year of the Arts celebration running through the end of 2024.

Thomas served as the university’s Opening Convocation speaker in 2021. His affiliation with the university began in 2006 when he was appointed to the W&M Board of Visitors. He was reappointed to the board twice, in 2009 and 2013, according to William & Mary. He was named an honorary alumnus of the W&M Law School in 2016 and an honorary alumnus of the university two years later.

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