Retired VA Supreme Court Justice John Charles Thomas visits ASL

Appalachian School of Law was honored to host Retired Justice John Charles Thomas during his visit to the law school last week.  Justice Thomas was the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court of Virginia and the youngest justice ever at the time of his appointment.  He is also known for his preternatural talent for writing and reciting poetry.

Justice Thomas shared with ASL’s students his journey from being a partner with the international law firm of Hunton & Williams (now Hunton Andrews Kurth), a Justice on the Supreme Court of Virginia, an arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport based in Switzerland, and recently an author of “The Poetic Justice.”

While at ASL, Justice Thomas shared his insights in a variety of law school classes.  He delivered three separate lectures on his recently released memoir, his experience in the Virginia judiciary, and his service as an international judge on the Court of Arbitration for Sport which addresses disputes between players and teams in the Olympics, the Tours de France, and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. 

In several presentations, Justice Thomas was joined by Justice Cleo Powell who presently sits on the Supreme Court of Virginia.  As ASL’s Diversity Mentor and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law, Justice Powell is a dependable and beloved source of wisdom and inspiration to ASL students.

Capping off his visit to ASL, Thomas remarked:  “This is a beautiful and strong place.  The mountains give strength.  I think Grundy is going to make me write a poem!”  His story strongly resonated with the students.  After hearing Justice Thomas’s talks, one student succinctly summarized the reaction he and many other students had:  “Justice Thomas’ life story is powerful and inspires me to, like he did, say ‘yes’ to every challenge that comes my way.”

We are also glad to report that ASL students will be seeing more of Justice Thomas in the future.  He has agreed to join ASL as a “Jurist in Residence” and to instill in our students the same optimism and enduring courage that he has shown as a lawyer, jurist, scholar, and poet.


Posted February 15th 2023 Posted by Mark Kelsey