Mayor Kasim Reed joined members of the Atlanta City Council, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and hundreds of other community and civic leaders on Tuesday, September 20, in recognizing the contributions of civil rights activist and broadcasting pioneer Xernona Clayton.
Ms. Clayton was recognized for a lifetime of contributions to community and humanity with the dedication of an honorary street and park plaza. Baker Street, N.W. between Piedmont Avenue, N.W. and Centennial Olympic Park Drive, N.W., was named Xernona Clayton Way; and the plaza at Hardy Ivy Park was named Xernona Clayton Plaza.
Members of the Atlanta City Council, upon the recommendation of a city commission and countless residents and community leaders, approved the designation of these landmarks to honor Ms. Clayton’s invaluable service to the community.
“I am extremely honored by this gesture from the Mayor and the City Council (city of Atlanta). 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,” said Ms. Clayton.
The honorary street sign unveiling at the intersection of Baker and Peachtree Streets was followed by the dedication of the Xernona Clayton Plaza, where officials unveiled a plaque commemorating Ms. Clayton’s lasting legacy in civil rights and broadcast journalism.
Ms. Clayton is only the second woman and the first African-American woman to have a downtown street named after her, following legendary author Margaret Mitchell.
A native of Muskogee, OK, Ms. Clayton began her career in Chicago working for the Urban League as an undercover agent investigating employment discrimination against African Americans. By the 1960s, Clayton was an active fundraiser for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Through her work with the SCLC, Clayton developed a relationship with Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Atlanta.
Among her many efforts, Ms. Clayton was instrumental in the desegregation of all Atlanta’s hospital facilities by coordinating the activities of the city’s African-American doctors in a project called the Doctors’ Committee for Implementation. This effort served as a model for cities and states across the country and received recognition from the National Medical Association for its impact.
Ms. Clayton is the founder, president and CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation, Inc. and creator and executive producer of the foundation’s Trumpet Awards. Initiated in 1993 by Turner Broadcasting, the Trumpet Awards is a prestigious event highlighting African-American accomplishments and contributions.
Ms. Clayton began her television career in 1967 and became the south’s first African-American to have her own television show. She has been widely honored for her contributions to humanity and has received numerous media awards.
Through her foundation, the Xernona Clayton Foundation, Ms. Clayton in 2010 opened a school in Kumasi, Ghana, West Africa, which today educates hundreds of students in Atwima- Heman Village, an area where there is a scarcity of educational opportunities.