© 2023 WCLK
Atlanta's Jazz Station--Classic, Cool, Contemporary
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Jazz 91.9 WCLK | Membership Matters

Kiplyn Primus Talks With Civil Rights, Atlanta Media Icon Xernona Clayton

 Xernona Clayton
The Peace Studio
Xernona Clayton

This week on The Local Take, I reached out to living legend and icon Xernona Clayton. She celebrated her 90th birthday in 2020, and even though the celebration was was during a pandemic, it was a festive event.

Clayton received the Barbie treatment with a limited edition doll in her image. She has been inducted into numerous Halls of Fame, including the Civil Rights Walk of Fame, Atlanta Press Club, National Association of Black Journalists, and recently the Academy of Television Arts and Science. She founded the Trumpet Awards, and we could go on and on.

I ask Clayton what it was like growing up in the United States in the 1930s and ’40s and asked her to describe her grade school years. She speaks about youngsters not having control of their lives. You did what your parents told you to do. Her father, James Brewster, was well respected in Muskogee, Oklahoma. White people were in and out of their home. As kids she and her twin sister, Xenobia were protected.

The twin sisters left for college at Tennessee State in Nashville. At that time Nashville was a segregated city. She recounts one painful memory that occurred on a date with friends.

She speaks fondly about her days on campus. The president of the school had a great relationship with the Board of Regents. She shares that they had the best food in the cafeteria and there were many scholarships available. Students were active in the fight for Civil Rights.

After receiving a scholarship to the University of Chicago for graduate school she worked with the NAACP and community organizations including the Urban League. She speaks about volunteering for a study on hiring practices at retailers Marshall Fields and Montgomery Wards. It was in Chicago that met and married her first husband Ed Clayton an editor at Jet magazine.

John Johnson owner of Ebony and Jet moved the young family to Los Angeles where Clayton opened the Los Angeles office of the publications. Clayton shares her work in that community working with Black and Hispanic kids.

When Dr. King moved his office to Atlanta he reached out to Ed Clayton in need of a writer and news person. Ed recommended his wife.

Clayton speaks about coming to live and work in Atlanta. She befriended Ralph McGill and had opportunities to speak with journalists from around the world. In 1967 she became the first Black woman to host her own television show in the south.

A statue is being erected of Clayton in downtown Atlanta.

For more information on Xernona Clayton