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Xernona Clayton

Broadcast executive, foundation chief executive, nonprofit executive, television host, and television producer Xernona Clayton and her twin sister, Xenobia, were born August 30, 1930 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Clayton’s parents, Reverend James M. and Lillie Brewster, were actively engaged in the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Muskogee. In 1952, Clayton earned her B.A. degree from Tennessee State Agricultural and Industrial College, now Tennessee State University. She later earned a scholarship and pursued graduate studies at the University of Chicago. In 1957, Clayton married noted journalist and civil rights activist Edward Clayton, who died in 1966. She later married jurist Paul L. Brady, the first African American appointed as a Federal Administrative Law judge.

Clayton's civic involvement and participation in the Civil Rights Movement was informed by the Chicago Urban League, in which she worked to investigate discrimination in employment. As an activist, Clayton was instrumental in coordinating activities for the Doctor's Committee for Implementation project, which culminated with the desegregation of hospital facilities in Atlanta, Georgia. Clayton also worked closely with Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to organize fundraising initiatives for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). By the mid-1960s, Clayton was writing for the Atlanta Voice, and in 1968, she became the first black woman in the South to host a regularly scheduled prime-time talk show, Variations, which became The Xernona Clayton Show on WAGA-TV in Atlanta. Her guests included Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne. Later that year, Clayton successfully convinced the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan to renounce the Klan. In 1982, Clayton began her long standing and impressive career with Turner Broadcasting System (TBS). At TBS, she assumed many roles throughout the years, including producing documentaries, hosting a public affairs program entitled Open Upand serving as director and vice-president of public affairs in the early 1980s. Ted Turner, founder of TBS, promoted Clayton to assistant corporate vice-president for urban affairs in 1988. In 1993, Clayton created the Trumpet Awards for Turner Broadcasting to honor African American achievements. The program is seen in over 185 countries.

As Governor of Georgia, former President Jimmy Carter appointed Clayton to the State Motion Picture and Television Commission. She is a member of the Academy for Television Arts and Sciences, the National Urban League, among other civic and professional organizations. Clayton is also a board member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and served as chairman of the Atlanta University Board of Trustees. The recipient of numerous accolades, Clayton received the Leadership and Dedication to Civil Rights Award and the Drum Major for Justice Award from SCLC in 2004. In her honor, the Atlanta Chapter of the Association of Black Journalists established the Xernona Clayton Scholarship. Clayton’s autobiography, I’ve Been Marching All the Time was published in 1991.

Xernona Clayton was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 22, 2005.

Accession Number

A2005.143

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/22/2005 |and| 2/21/2014

Last Name

Clayton

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Dunbar Elementary School

University of Chicago

Manual Training High School

Tennessee State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Xernona

Birth City, State, Country

Muskogee

HM ID

CLA10

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Oklahoma

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada, Bahamas, Caribbean

Favorite Quote

If You Can't Change People Around You, Change The People Around You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

8/30/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Grapes

Short Description

Foundation chief executive, broadcast executive, and television host Xernona Clayton (1930 - ) was the founder of the Trumpet Awards, and the first black woman in the South to host a regularly scheduled prime-time talk show, Variations, which became The Xernona Clayton Show on WAGA-TV.

Employment

WAGA TV

Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

Chicago Urban League

Favorite Color

Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Xernona Clayton's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Xernona Clayton lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Xernona Clayton describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Xernona Clayton describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Xernona Clayton describes her childhood home

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Xernona Clayton talks about her mother's paternal background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Xernona Clayton relates lessons from her father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Xernona Clayton describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Xernona Clayton recounts how her parents met in Muskogee, Oklahoma

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Xernona Clayton recalls her father's leadership in the Baptist church

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Xernona Clayton remembers her father's work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Muskogee, Oklahoma

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Xernona Clayton recalls her father's humbling response to public praise of Clayton and her twin sister

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Xernona Clayton recalls growing up as an identical twin, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Xernona Clayton recalls growing up as an identical twin, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Xernona Clayton describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Xernona Clayton describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Xernona Clayton describes Dunbar Elementary School in Muskogee, Oklahoma

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Xernona Clayton recalls her favorite teachers and classes

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Slating of Xernona Clayton's interview, session 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Xernona Clayton talks about her educational foundation

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Xernona Clayton remembers Manual Training High School in Muskogee, Oklahoma

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Xernona Clayton talks about being a twin

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Xernona Clayton describes her father's role in Muskogee, Oklahoma

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Xernona Clayton describes her adolescent career aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Xernona Clayton recalls her decision to attend Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Xernona Clayton recalls being named the smartest girl in her class at Manual Training High School

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Xernona Clayton recalls matriculating at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Xernona Clayton considers how her childhood influenced her activism, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Xernona Clayton considers how her childhood influenced her activism, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Xernona Clayton recalls her collegiate extracurricular activities, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Xernona Clayton recalls her collegiate extracurricular activities, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Xernona Clayton recalls being sheltered from discrimination during college

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Xernona Clayton recalls participating in a University of Wisconsin twin study

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Xernona Clayton recalls studying with her twin at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Xernona Clayton describes her approach to learning

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Xernona Clayton explains her decision to attend the University of Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Xernona Clayton reflects upon the impact of her father's lessons on humility

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Xernona Clayton recalls how she became involved with the Chicago Urban League

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Xernona Clayton describes her initial work with the Chicago Urban League in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Xernona Clayton talks about the Chicago Urban League's position on labor integration

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Xernona Clayton recalls chairing the most successful Chicago Urban League charity dinner

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Xernona Clayton remembers deciding to leave graduate school

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Xernona Clayton talks about meeting her husband, Edward Clayton

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Xernona Clayton recalls her involvement in Chicago's South Side society

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Xernona Clayton recalls teaching a prominent Chicago businessman to read and write

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Xernona Clayton reflects upon her legacy as an elementary school teacher in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Xernona Clayton recalls meeting Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Xernona Clayton explains how she began working for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

DASession

1$2

DATape

2$5

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
Xernona Clayton recalls growing up as an identical twin, pt. 1
Xernona Clayton describes her initial work with the Chicago Urban League in Chicago, Illinois
Transcript
But as a twin, now, people say it's--did you feel special--I guess you'd have to feel special as a twin, and did you have a special relationship with your twin [Xenobia Brewster]?$$Yes, we did feel special because when we found out we were rare and people made such notice of it--$$When did you first kind of realize it that something unusual was going on?$$Well, since we heard it every day, we started saying, "Mm-mm, you know, we're pretty special." But then we were so close. I mean, my sister and I, it's so like you have a best friend all the time. Everybody else has to go and try to find one and chose one. But I had one, and she had one, and we had each other. And it's somebody you really trust. I mean, you can tell your innermost secrets to your twin sister, and she could tell me hers. As a matter of fact, when we started courting, she'd tell me, like, she's going to slip out tonight when we had the curfew on and we couldn't get out after eight o'clock, and she had this hot date that she was determined to keep. And she says, "I'm going to slip out of the window"--we shared a bedroom; we slept together all the years. She said, "I'm going to slip out because my boyfriend's going to rap on the window, then I'm going out of the window, and then when I come back, I'm going to rap on the window, you let me back in and Mother [Lillie Elliott Brewster] will never know." And, of course, I didn't want her to do it, but that was my sister and my closest friend. And so, she was determined to slip out, that I was going to help her and support her, rather. And I was the one who really was always Miss Goody Two-Shoes. You know, I'd say, "Oh, no you can't break the rules. No, no, no." But she'd say, "Oh, yes, yes, yes." And so, since she was determined, I was going to support her because I didn't want her to get a whipping. And so, like we had those little secrets that nobody knew but us. But one night it backfired because my mother, having her own leveled wisdom, kind of figured something was going on I guess by the behavior pattern or body language. And so, that night when my sister slipped out and I was to assist her to slip back in when she rapped on the window, my mother opened the window (laughter). And she said, "Help me in," and the voice said, "Okay," and she thought it was my voice; it was my mother's voice. And when she came up, you know, she wanted to run back then; of course, it was too late then. Then when my mother gave her that little spanking, then I cried, too, because I didn't want her to, you know, to get spanked. But we shared everything, just everything.$We were talking about the Urban League of Chicago [Chicago Urban League]. And--$$Yes.$$--they needed--$$Well, discrimination was a reality, but they couldn't get a handle on it. So what they decided to do was, let's see if we can, you know, catch come--let do our homework to see if it's really being practice like what we think. So the pattern then was to, or the process was to look in the want ad sections and see who's hiring, what jobs are open, and then apply; apply meaning--now, this was in '52 [1952], and requirements or skills were not all that involved. Like, if you were a clerk, you could apply for a clerk/typist job if you could type and you could spell. And so you didn't have to have, you know, a medical degree to get a job. Now, my sister [Xenobia Brewster] and I had graduated from college [Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College; Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee], so you assume we knew something. We could spell, read, and write, and we could type, and, and we learned how to type in, in college. And I don't know if you remember a man name Cortez Peters, who was the fastest man in, in America.$$Right, Cortez Typing School [sic. Cortez W. Peters Business School].$$Yeah, he was a typist. And we had a chance to meet him. And he came to our college one year, and I got a chance to meet, and boy, I was so fascinated by him. And I said one of these days I'm gonna type like Cortez Peters. And I learned to be a pretty good typist, you know, of course nowadays it doesn't matter much. But I learned how to be a good typist, and so was my sister. So we were both good typists. And so the Urban League said well, let's do this: you be our front men. And we'll always like, position five minutes, ten minutes away from where we'd call. So we called, say Marshall Field's [Marshall Field & Company]. There would be an ad in the paper for a clerk typist. And we'd call and said, "I see you have an ad in the paper." "Yes." "Is the job still open?" "Yes." "It's okay to apply?" "Yes." Then we'd make a beeline over there, like ten minutes away. And we'd get there and, "We're here to apply. I understand you got a clerk/typist at"--we don't tell we're the ones that called. You said, "I came to apply for your clerk/typist job." "Oh, so sorry, but we just filled that." You know, (laughter), well, then you got them right there. Well, that happened with so many companies, Spiegel [Spiegel Inc.]--well, I don't wanna name all of the companies that were kind of guilty but major companies that looked like they were good guys. You know, Marshall Field's, everybody went to Marshall Field's. It was a joy to go to Marshall Field's. They looked like good guys. Spiegel was a good mail order place and oh, a lot of places. And my sister and I went to many of those places that did the same pattern, apply--I mean broadcast the--advertise an opening, and then when you got there, you're black, it's not for you. And we broke down a lot of that. And it was kind of, you know, fun job; job meaning, you know, it was assigned tasks. They were really very--and I was waiting for school to start anyways, then the summer, so it was before we went to col- before I went to school.$$So, so would the Urban League then confront the business in, in a (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) And they would--$$--formal setting--$$Oh yeah, and then they, they would document it.$$(Unclear)--$$And so they put, I mean had very good documentation, which means--and then they called a press conference. And of course, then you embarrass the company. And then the, you know, the good guys say well, we gotta change our image. You know, we can't be out here looking this bad. So that's how the integration took place, is all I think just felt embarrassed.$$