Xernona Clayton, 1930

  • Xernona-Clayton-WWP

Woman Category: MediaWoman Tags: African-American Women, Atlanta Women, Journalist, Producer, and Radio Broadcaster

  • HerStory

    A civil rights activist and broadcasting executive. The first African-American to host a TV show in the South.

    Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Her parents were administrators of Indian affairs and supported Native Americans in need. She completed her undergraduate studies in music and education in the Tennessee State Agricultural and Industrial College, and continued to graduate school at the University of Chicago. In Chicago, she became active in the Civil Rights Movement, working undercover for the National Urban League, investigating racial discrimination for African-American employees. At that time, she met her first husband, Ed Clayton, who was also a civil rights activist.
    In 1965, upon the request of Martin Luther King, the Claytons’ moved to Atlanta, GA, where she continued her political and activism work. Along with Coretta Scott King, she organized events for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and they traveled together for Mrs. Kings’ concert tours across the state. In the following years, she was appointed as a coordinator for the Doctors’ Committee for Implementation, advocating for the desegregation of hospital facilities in Atlanta. The project became a model for desegregation throughout the country, receiving national honor from the National Medical Association. Through the program, she met Calvin Craig, the Grand Dragon of the Georgia Ku Klux Klan, and persuade him to denounce the KKK.
    In 1968 Clayton became the first African-American in the South to host a daily prime time television show when she started hosting her talk show – “The Xernona Clayton Show,” which ran for seven years. In 1979, she joined Turner Broadcasting as a documentary producer and retired after 30 years as the director and vice-president of public affairs. In 1993 she founded the Trumpet Awards Foundation Inc, honoring accomplishments of African-Americans every year. After retiring from Turner Broadcasting, she began serving on boards of various organizations, including the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and the Board of Review for the state of Georgia’s Department of Labor. In 2004 she initiated the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta.

    “We’ve got to keep fueling the fire with the burning desire to do better”

    “We’ve got to keep fueling the fire with the burning desire to do better”

    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She has three older half-siblings, an older brother and sister, and a twin sister.
    • She helped plan Dr. Martin Luther King’s funeral following his assassination in 1968.
    • She published an autobiography named “I’ve Been Marching All The Time.”
    • A Xernona Clayton Barbie was created by Mattel Toy Company.
    • Following the death of her first husband, she married Paul L. Brady – the first African-American to be appointed as a Federal Administrative Law Judge. They have two children from Brady’s previous marriage.
    • She co-authored a revised edition of her first husband’s biography of Martin Luther King Jr., called “The Peaceful Warrior.”
    • The Xernona Clayton Way in Atlanta is named in her honor.


  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Books she wrote


    * Her footprints are impressed on the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame
    * Bronze Women of the Year for Human Relations (1969)
    * James Weldon Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award (2011)
    * The President's Award by the National Conference of Mayors (1983)
    * Inducted into the Academy of Women Achievers by the YWCA (1986)
    * SCLC Drum Major for Justice Award

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Booking.com

  • Civil Rights Icon and Broadcast Pioneer Xernona Clayton

    Civil Rights Icon and Broadcast Pioneer Xernona Clayton on 'Atlanta & Company'

  • Clayton (on the right) with Coretta Scott King in Atlanta, 1994. Photo credit - LOC