On Tuesday, September 20, 2011, Atlanta’s Baker Street Northwest, between Piedmont Avenue Northwest and Centennial Olympic Park Drive, was renamed Xernona Clayton Way after journalist and entrepreneur Xernona Clayton.

Simultaneously, a park plaza at the intersection of Peachtree Street and Baker Rd N.W. was named Xernona Clayton Plaza.

“I am extremely honored by this gesture from the Mayor and the City Council (city of Atlanta),”
Clayton said. “To have a street and a park dedicated in my name give me joy beyond expression. This is a significant moment for me, and I am delighted with this signal honor.”

Clayton is the second woman and the first African-American woman to have a street downtown named after her following the late Margaret Mitchell, a legendary novelist.

A broadcast executive, foundation founder, nonprofit executive, TV host, and producer, Clayton laid the foundation for future activists and journalists on how to create an everlasting legacy.

The Muskogee, Oklahoma native, born August 30, 1930, alongside her twin Xenobia to Reverend James M. and Lillie Brewster, graduated from Tennessee State University in 1952. Clayton went on to earn a graduate degree at the University of Chicago.

After the death of her first husband Edward Clayton in 1966, who was a journalist and civil rights activist, Clayton married Paul L. Brady, a Federal Administrative Law Judge.

She became a writer for The Atlanta Voice Newspaper in the mid-1960s and the first African-American person in the South to have her own television show in 1968.

She hosted a prime-time talk show called “Themes and Variations” which later became “The Xernona Clayton Show” on WAGA-TV, CBS affiliate in Atlanta.

During her television debut that year, Clayton convinced the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan to leave the organization. While with the Chicago Urban League, Clayton worked to investigate discrimination in employment.

She also coordinated activities for the Doctor’s Committee for the Implementation project. With her efforts for the Doctor’s Committee Implementation project, there was a peak of desegregation of hospitals in Atlanta, Georgia.

However, Clayton’s non-violent fight to end discrimination and create equal opportunities for Blacks did not stop there.

Working alongside the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Clayton helped to organize fundraising initiatives for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), dedicated to achieving social, economic, and political justice.

In the early 80s, Clayton joined Turner Broadcasting System where she produced documentaries, hosted a public affairs program titled “Open Up” and served as the director and VP of public affairs.

After an impressive career at TBS, the founder of the media company, Ted Turner appointed Clayton to assistant corporate vice-president for urban affairs in 1988.

Turner said, “Xernona has an impressive record of accomplishments and we are proud to recognize her commitment to bettering human relations with this promotion.”

Wanting to award those whose great deeds might have gone unnoticed, Clayton created the Trumpet Awards for Turner Broadcasting to honor the achievements of African-Americans in 1993. Twenty-six years of highlighting Black excellence, the Trumpet Awards is seen in over 185 countries, according to Multichannel News.

Clayton has received the Mickey Leland Award from the National Association of Minorities in Cable which honors the late U.S. Congressman and received an honorary doctorate of letter degrees from Clark Atlanta University, Tennessee State University, and Alcorn State University.

In addition to doctorate honorees, Clayton won the first Local Community Service Award from Spelman College, and the State of Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity presented her with the Leadership and Dedication in Civil Rights Award in 2004.

In an article written by journalist and editor Stan Washington for Patch.com, former Mayor Kasim Reed was quoted saying “She is one who has lived three lifetimes in one lifetime,” in regards to Clayton.

He continued, “She has been a tireless advocate for social and economic justice here and abroad.

In recognition of her lifelong contributions to the city, I am delighted that the leadership and dedication she has shown throughout her life of service will now be a permanent part of Atlanta’s historical tapestry.”

(Photo: Associated Press)

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