Like many who grow up poor and achieve professional success, Clarence Thomas has cultivated a taste for the finer things in life—especially when gifted to him by the sort of folks to whom the Supreme Court justice’s $230,000 salary is chump change. Reporting from ProPublica earlier this year revealed that Dallas real estate billionaire Harlan Crow rewarded his pal with luxurious vacations, flights on his private jets, and a rent-free house for the judge’s mother. More recently, the New York Times reported that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has let Thomas travel on his private jet, too, and has plied him with visits to the Cowboys’ training camp and to the owner’s box during games in Washington, D.C. Jones also bestowed upon Thomas a Super Bowl ring from one of the team’s titles during its dynasty run in the 1990s.
For wealthy Texans, offering lavish gifts to public servants is a long-standing tradition. As Texas Monthly editor-at-large Bryan Burrough notes in his book The Big Rich, Billy Byars, the Tyler businessman, paid for upgrades to then-president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Pennsylvania farm getaway in the 1950s. Clint Murchison, founding owner of the Dallas Cowboys, feted football fanatic Richard Nixon with free stays at Hotel del Charro, his elegant Southern California resort. Where some might suspect corruption, these prosperous Texans saw mere neighborliness. That the recipients were in a position to advance the Texans’ interests was surely mere coincidence.
If you’re a current Texas billionaire hoping to follow this long-standing tradition, Thomas seems like he might have room in his heart for another generous pal or three. (Make new friends and keep the old, as the saying goes, and then especially the part about silver and gold!) While Texas has a few too many high–net worth individuals to offer personalized guidance to each individually, we’ve got some suggestions for a handful of them on how to become Thomas’s confidante. And if you’re a billionaire feeling left out of this list, hit us up! We can probably work up some ideas for you.
Has Crow or Jones ever given Thomas a trip to the International Space Station? We doubt it! Is Musk the guy to get him there? Er, uh, um . . . maybe! Regardless, a trip aboard a SpaceX rocket seems like a more exciting experience than not being rate limited on Twitter, or driving around in a mere terrestrial car that’s prone to catching on fire, or getting caught up in a Knives Out–style mystery in Musk’s weird glass house.
It’s long been said that the only thing better than being rich and famous is just being rich. Dell isn’t quite an anonymous figure, but compared to the Arch “Beaver” Aplins, Jerry Joneses, and Elon Musks of the state, the seventeenth-richest human on the planet keeps a relatively low profile. Given the scrutiny Thomas faces at the moment, that means Dell is probably the exact sort of billionaire from whom Thomas would welcome an offering of friendship. Dell recently listed his Boston penthouse at a cool $35 million—that’s the sort of property that tends to take many months to sell, and while it’s awaiting a buyer, maybe he could offer to let Thomas crash whenever he’s in town? He could catch up with college friends from his time at Holy Cross! It’s just the hospitable thing to do.
Before the revelations about Thomas’s affinity for expensive travel, he and his wife, Ginni, spoke of their affection for vacations spent in their forty-foot RV, which they park overnight in Walmart parking lots. This is a useful vacation hack for anyone traveling on a budget: Walmart security allows travelers to catch a few hours of sleep outside their stores. But we suspect that Walton family heiress, Alice, who lives in Fort Worth, could offer more than a mere parking lot to the justice. Walton is a prolific patron of the arts whose foundation, Art Bridges, provides support to smaller regional museums. Perhaps some of those museums could display a few large-scale portraits of a certain Supreme Court justice and his wife roasting a few weenies on a mini Weber grill in a Walmart parking lot somewhere, done in the style of Norman Rockwell? Thomas is no stranger to being depicted in oils and watercolors, but we’re sure he’d appreciate it if some of those depictions could be found in public, rather than in a lightly trafficked room in Harlan Crow’s estate.
It’s possible that the oil and gas magnate, long recognized for his influence over Texas politics, is already quietly chummy with Thomas. It would certainly be a feather in the cap of the man behind the right-wing groups Empower Texans and the Texas Public Policy Foundation. But if Dunn is not tight with the Supreme Court justice, it seems like a wasted opportunity. Would Thomas like to have an evangelical school named after him? Hard to say. Thomas is a practicing Catholic who briefly studied for the priesthood. But he also seems like the type who would enjoy having more things named after him. If he would, Dunn’s the guy to make it happen.
Arch “Beaver” Aplin
Aplin, founder of the iconic Buc-ee’s chain of gas station emporiums, may not be an actual billionaire. But given his brand’s everyman appeal, he’s got a special opportunity to buddy up to Thomas. The justice might have the overnight stays covered on his cross-country trips with Ginni, thanks to Walmart’s parking lot policy, but Buc-ee’s can supply the gas and snacks. And why stop there? Aplin, a gifted marketer, can offer more: How about a vault full of Beaver Nuggets for Thomas to dive in and out of like Scrooge McDuck? We bet Samuel Alito hasn’t got one of those!
Like Aplin, the Ox Ranch owner isn’t a billionaire, unlike most of the rest of the people our list. But do any of the billionaires on this list own exotic game ranches beloved by Ted Nugent? If Clarence Thomas would like to shoot a kangaroo, Oxley is his guy.
We know that Thomas enjoys watching the Cowboys, or at least hobnobbing with the team’s owner. But the justice’s basketball allegiances are unknown. He’s a fan of the game—in college he played intramural ball, earning the nickname “Cooz” for his game’s resemblance to that of Celtics legend Bob Cousy—and famously tore his Achilles tendon in a pickup game with law clerks back in 1993. We’re not suggesting that Fertitta, who owns the Houston Rockets, should provide him with courtside seats—given the current state of the team, that’s the sort of gift you get when you make a wish on a monkey’s paw—but maybe Thomas is interested in coaching? Given the organization’s recent track record, new head coach Ime Udoka should be gone no later than 2026. There’s no law that says a Supreme Court justice can’t simultaneously coach an NBA team.