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John B. Clemmons, Sr.

College professor and scholar J.B. Clemmons was born John Benjamin Clemmons on April 11, 1912 to Lewis and Bessie Clemmons in Rome, Georgia. Clemmons graduated from high school in 1927 after completing only the tenth grade; African Americans were not allowed to go to eleventh or twelfth grade in Rome. In 1930, he entered Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Clemmons then enrolled in graduate studies at Atlanta University, obtaining his M.A. degree in 1937. He then moved to Harlan, Kentucky, where he began teaching for $100 a week and met and married Mozelle Daily. By 1942, Clemmons was the principal of the school in Harlan. In 1947, Clemmons and his wife moved to Savannah, Georgia. While his wife began her lifelong involvement in the NAACP, Clemmons taught at Savannah State College (now Savannah State University) alongside his colleague, Dr. Henry M. Collier, Jr. Together, they formed the Delta ETA Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. In the summer of 1949, he worked as a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Clemmons then decided to continue his education by attending the University of Southern California to earn his Ph.D. He received Ford Foundation and National Science Foundation grants in 1951 and 1952, respectively. After working towards earning his Ph.D. at UCLA, Clemmons decided to return to Georgia, continued his teaching career and became involved in banking. He went on to charter the Alpha Lambda Boulé of the Sigma Pi Phi in Savannah in 1963.

Clemmons served as the Chairman of the Department of Mathematics and Physics at Savannah State University for thirty-seven years. He received many honors over the years for his outstanding work and philanthropic efforts in the community. Clemmons served as Chairman of the Board for Carver State Bank in Savannah.

Clemmons passed away on June 13, 2012 at the age of 100.

Accession Number

A2007.025

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/22/2007

Last Name

Clemmons

Maker Category
Middle Name

B.

Schools

Morehouse College

Main Elementary School

Clark Atlanta University

University of Southern California

University of Pittsburgh

First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Rome

HM ID

CLE04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

Ask The Man That Won't Own One.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

4/11/1912

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Savannah

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lobster

Death Date

6/13/2012

Short Description

Math professor and physics professor John B. Clemmons, Sr. (1912 - 2012 ) served as acting chair Department of Mathematics and Physics at Georgia State College, and chartered the Alpha Lambda Boule’ of Sigma Pi Phi fraternity. He also served as Chairman of the Board for Carver State Bank in Savannah, Georgia, and received many honors over the years for his outstanding work and philanthropic efforts in the community.

Employment

Fairbanks Company

Tobacco Farm

Duffy's Tavern

Rosenwald High School

Savannah State University

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of John B. Clemmons, Sr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his family's land in Rome, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. talks about his brothers

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his parents' professions

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. remembers working at the Fairbanks Company in Rome, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his grade school education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. remembers his elementary school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his experiences as a Boy Scout

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. recalls the entrance examination at Morehouse College

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. remembers working on a tobacco farm in Hartford, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his summer work experiences during college

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his college education in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his thesis at Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his position at Rosenwald High School in Harlan, Kentucky

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his move to Cumberland, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. recalls being excused from U.S. military service

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. recalls joining the faculty off Savannah State College in Savannah, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. remembers his academic grants

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. remembers Louis B. Toomer

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his real estate investments

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. remembers the first computers at Georgia State College in Savannah, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his position on the board of Carver State Bank

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. recalls the Civil Rights Movement in Savannah, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. remembers founding the Alpha Lambda Boule

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes the Alpha Lambda Boule's scholarship program

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. describes his loan program at Savannah State College in Savannah, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. talks about his organizational involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. remembers his induction to the Savannah Business Hall of Fame

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. remembers teaching drama at Savannah State College

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. talks about his wife and children

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - John B. Clemmons, Sr. narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

2$3

DATitle
John B. Clemmons, Sr. remembers working at the Fairbanks Company in Rome, Georgia
John B. Clemmons, Sr. remembers the first computers at Georgia State College in Savannah, Georgia
Transcript
How much education did your father [Lewis Clemmons] have?$$He went to the third grade, he said. I don't know, but I know he could, he kept a, on his job, he kept a ruled notebook where he--real neat--where he would say, oh, you know, I, bill fifteen, uh, meaning assemble, fifteen 5213 trucks. That's the number of it. And those were cotton trucks, 5213. I will always remember that 'cause I remember most of them. And at the assembly, the price might have been--let us say, twelve cents. And then, if he built ten of them, then he put a dollar and twenty cents out there, and then on down the line, whatever trucks he was assembling. And then, one time, they were--the bosses sent three white boys down there one summer to work with him. And, and daddy said, "No, I'm not going to teach these boys how to take my job" (laughter). So, so he told his boss no. Well, one of the boys that came down there was one of the bosses' son. One--another one of the officials of the company [Fairbanks Company, Rome, Georgia]--son. And, and it was three boys. And, and the, and the, I don't know whether if that's what they planned to do or not. But daddy said, he wasn't going to teach them how to take his job--not him.$$So, did you and your brothers [Eddie Clemmons and Willie Clemmons] have--I'm sure you had chores, but did you work?$$Yeah, we would work sometimes after school. We, when we got a certain age, we'd go down to the same company. See, my daddy's work was piecework. And, and then, we had tapped, we knew the numbers of different things and, and, that were in certain bins. And it was a big factory too, covered about three or four blocks. And what we would do is, if he had to build fifty 230s--2- 2- trucks that were called 230s--then, we knew what brackets to get, what axels to get, all of the parts. And we'd bring it out of the bins, out to a desk. And my daddy and another man, Mr. Williams [ph.], for part of the time, and then, finally, there was just, there's a lot of different folks with him. But we'd pile those other, stack them up neatly by the desk, where the bench, where the, where each man was working. And then, and as the truck is assembled--first, you, you put the two hands down, then you do what, what they call nose guards and things, put them down. And then, finally, you end up, you putting the wheels on the axel. And then, you push it off. And every day about four o'clock, some man comes through, and see how many of them you assembled.$$Okay.$$And then, our job was to roll them to the warehouse. And in the warehouse, well, they shipped everything from the warehouse. That was what daddy did.$$Okay. Now (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) He was doing that when he died--up to, and lived to that point, he got--up 'til he retired.$At this time, you're still, you're teaching at Savannah State [Georgia State College; Savannah State University, Savannah, Georgia]. How long--$$I'm not teaching. I didn't--$$Not--no, at this time, this is in 1947, 1948.$$Oh, yeah, I was teaching.$$Yeah. How long did you teach at Savannah State?$$I, I taught, let me see, I taught thirty-five years there.$$What did you teach? Was it mathematics and physics (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Mathematics, physics, and computer science.$$Okay. And you were the chairman of the department of mathematics?$$Chairman, chairman of the department. One of the things, special things I did, I wrote IBM [International Business Machines Corporation] at Poughkeepsie, New York. They gave me a trip up there, and tell--I went to a meeting in University of Georgia [Athens, Georgia] for all of the units in Georgia. And they took us out to Georgia Tech in, in Georgia [Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia]. And, and those places, they had rooms where each student would have a computer way back then, and I didn't know that. I didn't know that was happening. And so, I wrote IBM. They gave me a trip up there. And I took one of the leader, leader students with me up there, and see, he's, he's deceased now. But (unclear), I was able to talk to the vice president of IBM. And I told them, that's--you all should--we trying to get the computers. And when--you all should give, give us some, a resource person. Said, "Well, we'll let you know." And I stayed two days up there. But when I got back, I got a letter saying they had decided that they would give us a resource person at their expense for one year. Well, that person came, and we were living at The Landings [Savannah, Georgia]. That's where rich people--they paid for all of that. And, and we had, and he taught a class in it. And I, I and they didn't--lady named Ms. Wilson [ph.] knew a good bit about programming and stuff. But that, that fellow kind of directed us and taught us more. And we got what you call the 1620 computer [IBM 1620]. And, and they put that in, in here at the college. And then, later, we got a, one called a 360 [IBM System/360], but the college bought it. And then, but you see, but that's something, a lot of the kids didn't know how the computer got here. But, and a lot of teachers probably didn't know, but that's how we got it, see (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) All right.