Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Politics and the Strategy of Winning: Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill

BOND: So, moving forward, you're in high school. You get elected to these offices, and that's one way in America we measure leadership. You're elected to an office, you're therefore a leader. And you get into college and then you get out into the work world. Now, when in the work world did you decide that you're a leader?

WILLIAMS: Justice Thomas' confirmation hearings.

BOND: So at the Department of Agriculture, you're not thinking of yourself in this way?

WILLIAMS: No, not even with Richard, no. That was fun. I was twenty-one. But let me tell you something. Those confirmation hearings -- it's about strategy. They're about inches. And then the other thing -- I think what troubled me most about the confirmation hearings, and I have to be careful saying this in public -- is that I always had a strong moral compass. I have to always be ethical, honest, and legal in what I do. My parents always taught me that, but during the confirmation hearings it was all about winning. And I think during Thomas' confirmation hearings, I became things and had to do things that troubled me in my spirit. And I think more than anything else what I learned from his confirmation hearings, I never want to be a politician. I think more than any time in my life I made the decision I cannot be an elected. If this is what it takes, because you are told nobody cares about the truth. Nobody wants to hear the truth and I saw that, so what you got to do, you got to destroy Anita Hill by any means necessary, so my attitude was to take her out. That was the attitude that I had. I was a general and I led the forces to do that. And he went on the Court but I had a lot of soul searching to do.

BOND: And how do you feel about that now?

WILLIAMS: Oh, I mean, it's my past and, you know, I did it. I don't feel good about it. I've been forgiven for it because I've become a better person. Now, most people won't admit that, that what we do in Washington to destroy other people to elevate others -- I was a part of that. And I realized being in elective office, you can become things that you don't -- and I never wanted to become that and by that time my father was deceased. I didn't have his guidance so I was on my own and a lot of people went along with my plans, but it was a big part of the process.

BOND: But even though your father's not living, you have his memory and you have the memory of the things he taught you. Are you saying to me that you can't think of any time in the future that you might want to go back to South Carolina and run for this, run for that?

WILLIAMS: No, I can't say that because it was always a vision of my father. Oh, I can never say that. It's in me. I'm the one who convinced my brother to run to satisfy my own conscience because it's part of a guilt, something that I have not satisfied because I believe I can do it. No, no, I know I could do it. I know I have what it takes to do it. There's no doubt about that. That's not arrogance. It's just a fact. I know I can do it. Well, am I willing to do it? There's always that possibility I could go back and run for office.

BOND: Yes. Adam Clayton Powell once told me, "Never say you what you won't do."

WILLIAMS: That's what I'm saying.

BOND: Because you never know.

WILLIAMS: You never know. I agree.