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Sat, 08.30.1930

Xernona Clayton, Journalist, and Activist born

Xernona Clayton

*Xernona Clayton was born on this date in 1930. She is a Black journalist and businesswoman.

Xernona Brewster Clayton pronounced "zer- no -na"; is from Muskogee, OK. She is the daughter of James M. Brewster (a Baptist minister) and Lillie (Elliott) Brewster. She graduated from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State University (now Tennessee State University), B.A. (with honors) in 1952. Later she did graduate study at University of Chicago.  She and her twin sister worked with Urban League in Chicago investigating and uncovering job discrimination. Ironically they were eventually offered jobs at the same company they had probed--a liquor distribution firm that had not until then hired any Black employees. In 1957 she married Ed Clayton (a journalist) who died in 1966).

In 1968, she became the first Black woman in the South to host a regularly scheduled prime-time television talk show on WAGA-TV in Atlanta. Themes and Variations’ was a program was well received in both black and white communities. Featuring such celebrities as singers Lena Horne, Mahalia Jackson, and Harry Belafonte as well as more controversial figures, the program was renamed The Xernona Clayton Show after one year. Six months later the show went into syndication with a one-hour version aired on other Storer Broadcasting stations once a month. While living in Los Angeles, California, Clayton responded to former U.S. President John F. Kennedy's plea for volunteers to keep children from dropping out of school. She and her husband moved to Atlanta when Martin Luther King, Jr., expressed a need for their help, and consequently, Clayton worked closely with the Kings on civil rights.

In 1974, she married Paul L. Brady (a federal administrative judge), stepchildren: Laura Brady, Paul L. Brady, Jr. Clayton's achievements include her memberships: the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, National Association of Media Women (president, c. 1982-90), National Association of Press Women, Urban League (member of board of directors). Assistant corporate vice-president of urban affairs at Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (TBS) in Atlanta, Georgia, Clayton has enough clout at TBS to be creative with corporate resources, and she has engineered many significant accomplishments.

Clayton's autobiography, I've Been Marching All The Time was published in 1991.  In 2004, Clayton received the Leadership and Dedication to Civil Rights Award and the Drum Major for Justice Award from SCLC.  The Atlanta Chapter of the Association of Black Journalists has established the Xernona Clayton Scholarship.

Tennessee State University honored Clayton at their Blue and White All-Star Academy Awards in 2005.  Clayton's footprints were added to the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in 2006.

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