"I'm comfortable with those who are highly educated, and I am probably equally comfortable with those who are barely educated. I like the engine mechanics. I like the guy who changes tires. I am very comfortable with people who have written dozens of books," he says. "So I'm comfortable at the Court, but I'm also comfortable with people who don't even know how many members of the Court there are.
"I have not only lived in those worlds, I have had to traverse them all. I've had to be a part of them," he says. "When I go to a restaurant, the people who are busing the tables, they are working jobs that my relatives worked. And I love being with my relatives, I love being with my friends. So yes, I'm in and out of these worlds, and I'm very comfortable in all of them."
He says he never wanted to be on the Court, but that he sees it as a duty — doing his service to the country. If he had not been a judge, he says he probably would have "headed either to the Midwest or to the South and run a business and lived a quiet, private life.
"That's my preferred way of life," he says. "I like to go to tailgate at football games on Saturdays, anonymously. I like to be in my motor home, anonymously. I'd like to be a part of a community, do volunteer work, run a business the way I think a business should have been run. I had my own ideas about running a medium-size business. But that didn't happen."
He gets out of Washington as much as he can, and he does much of his Court work in his home office, where he is connected to the Court's computer system. He drives all over the country with Virginia in his motor home, and he enjoys meeting the "regular people," as he puts it.
"I like being me. I've always liked being me. I mean, other people may have problems with it, because, as my mother said when I was born, 'You're pretty stubborn.' So maybe I am," he says. "But I just don't have any problems with being me. The biggest drawback in this job has been the loss of anonymity. I love just my private life, my anonymity, to walk around, to walk on the Mall. Those things are gone, but, again, what a small price to pay."
Thomas says he's often asked what he thinks his legacy will be. He responds that he doesn't even think about it.
"What I think about is doing my job, and the only thing that I would suggest anybody care about saying about me when I'm gone is that, 'He did his best.' That's it. There's nothing more to say," Thomas says.
"'He did his honest best,'" Thomas says, "'and then he went on about his life.'"