The revelations about Clarence Thomas’ financial ties to billionaire donor Harlan Crow—most of which the justice has routinely declined to disclose in his annual ethics documentation—keep coming. A ProPublica investigation published Thursday reported that, in addition to the lavish vacations Crow has funded for Thomas and his wife, the justice sold three personal properties to the Republican billionaire without ever disclosing it—including the home belonging to Thomas’ mother, Leola Williams.
According to ProPublica, Crow purchased Williams’ home in 2014, along with two nearby vacant lots in Savannah, Georgia. All three properties were co-owned by Thomas, Williams, and the family of Thomas’ late brother. Crow paid $133,363 for the properties. That’s substantially more than Thomas’ valuation. On a 2009 financial disclosure form, Thomas said his one-third stake in the three properties amounted to $15,000 or less. Once Crow assumed ownership, the billionaire paid for $36,000 worth of improvements to Williams’ home, including a carport, a roof repair, a new fence, and gates.
Thomas’ failure to declare the sale of his Savannah properties is a violation of federal disclosure law, several experts told ProPublica. Justices and other public officials must disclose real estate sales over $1,000.
In response to ProPublica’s new reporting, Crow said he bought Williams’ home to “preserve it for posterity,” with a goal of eventually turning it into a museum dedicated to Thomas. The justice did not respond to ProPublica’s questions about the property sale to Crow.
There is one critical detail ProPublica left slightly open: Does Leola Williams still live in her Savannah home? The reporters noted that they were certain Thomas’ mother lived in this house through 2020, per public records and social media, and that her neighbors said she still lives there.
But Slate can confirm that she resides in the house to this day. Two weeks ago, Joel Anderson interviewed her there for the upcoming season of Slow Burn. To hear from Leola Williams directly, tune in to Slow Burn: Becoming Justice Thomas, out May 31.