In the 228 years that America has been governed by the Constitution, no President or Vice President has ever been sworn in by an African American Supreme Court Justice.
That will all change on Friday when Justice Clarence Thomas administers The Oath of Office to Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
To make an already historic event even more unique, Pence will be the first elected official to be sworn in on the Reagan family Bible since the late president used it during his own inaugurations.
The Bible will be opened to the same passage Reagan used during his inaugurations, II Chronicles 7:14:
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
While the Presidents are sworn in by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Vice Presidents have been sworn in by a variety of elected officials, including the outgoing Vice Presidents. In 2013, Vice President Joe Biden was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
In October, Justice Thomas added to his historic legacy by becoming the longest serving African American Supreme Court Justice after 25-years on the bench.
In the press release announcing the inauguration plans, Vice President-elect Pence was quoted saying he is honored to be sworn in by Justice Thomas:
“It will be my honor to take the Oath of Office to defend our Constitution from a man who has dedicated his life to the same noble pursuit.”
Pence continued sharing his esteem for Justice Thomas by saying he has “long admired Justice Clarence Thomas and deeply respect his judicial philosophy, dedication to the rule of law, and his historic service on the bench of our nation’s highest court.”
Justice Clarence served in the Reagan Administration as the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1982. He was appointed to the Supreme Court by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 to replace retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Throughout the campaign, Pence mentioned his Christian faith as the guide for his policy making decisions. Speaking at the Republican National Convention, Pence described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”
Being sworn in by Justice Thomas, who is a traditionalist on the bench, is fitting for Pence, who shared his faith and respect for the Constitution throughout the campaign.