Xernona Clayton turned 82, and she is Not Quite Through. In fact, the Trumpet Awards creator and civil rights icon is a mover and a shaker who celebrated her 82nd birthday with the spunk of a woman half her age. The celebration was held in Paradise Island, Bahamas, August 29-September 2. Approximately 200 of Clayton’s family and friends and dignitaries from around the world, including the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas attended the gala affair. The Rt. Hon. Perry Gladstone Christie and First Lady Bernadette Christie, Ambassador Andrew Young, Comedians Chris Tucker and Jonathan Slocumb and a number of other dignitaries, celebrities and VIPs were on hand to help celebrate the birthday of the woman small in stature, but big in heart and philanthropy. The Labor Day weekend event was celebrated at the Atlantis Resort, which hosts the largest waterpark in the Caribbean.
Festivities for Clayton’s birthday celebration began August 29 with a “Welcome Reception” for all of her invited guests. The Bahamas Tourist Board and the Atlantis Resort rolled out the red carpet, greeting guests even while Hurricane Isaac loomed for a few days in the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast prior to the celebration.
“Punch & Crunch Oceanside” was the highlight of the Thursday morning festivity. Fashion was showcased while guests dined at a private oceanfront residence hosted by Elaine Pinder and La Rose Boutique. Guests were awe-inspired by the traffic-stopping respect given Xernona Clayton – in recognition of her very presence and her continued contributions to helping to educate and inspire Bahamian children. That evening, guests enjoyed gospel music, evocative messages and worship that were uplifting. All guests attending the “Spiritual Spotlight Buffet” wore All White attire and dined on a wide selection of island cuisines.
The grand finale’ “Birthday Gala” for Xernona Clayton, August 31, was a festive and fanciful black-tie soirée emceed by comedian Jonathan Slocumb – featuring musical celebrations, noteworthy speakers and The Royal Bahamas Police Force Pop Band. The scrumptious menu consisted of seared breast of chicken with jumbo lime lacquered shrimp brochette, mushroom risotto cake, tomato and pigeon pea ragout, butternut squash and roasted garlic soup, island greens with roasted beets, candied walnuts, and ginger crème brulee and tropical fruit. While guests dined, funny man Chris Tucker performed an impromptu rendition in song and dance of Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It,” while trumpet player Melvin Miller tried to keep the comedian on key. Before the night was over, Clayton received a call from R&B singer Tyrese, who sang “Happy Birthday,” and all of her guests listened as well. The blushing Clayton was coy about her longevity, admitting she doesn’t drink a lot of water nor does she get adequate sleep. “I don’t do anything right,” she quipped. In fact, Clayton told the crowd she sleeps less than five hours a night. She gave all the credit for her long, prosperous life to God.
On the final day of Xernona Clayton’s birthday celebration, guests took a tour of the Island and enjoyed a grand farewell get-together.
On a personal note, Xernona Clayton has been an inspiration to me throughout my journalistic endeavors. Her work encouraged me in my forum to bring positive and inspirational news about African-American success to the forefront. While growing up in Atlanta, it was great to see an African-American woman on television (Xernona was the first African-American to host her own television show in the south), and to have someone in my own community doing what I dreamed of doing someday.
Since Xernona Clayton started the Trumpet Awards in 1993, I have only missed two of her awards shows in the 20 years it has been showcased. While writing articles on entertainers for several newspapers and magazines, I was always inspired by the honorees at The Trumpet Awards. It was also an honor to interview Xernona one-on-one and feature her story in a few of the publications for which I’ve been privileged to write. One of my unique stories was about twins in which Xernona shared with me the incredible bond she had with her identical twin.
I salute Xernona Clayton for 82 years of productive life, and I wish her many, many more. God Bless You, Xernona Clayton!
By Sonya Jenkins
Xernona Clayton is the Founder, President and CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation, Inc. and Creator and Executive Producer of the Foundation’s Trumpet Awards. The Trumpet Awards is a prestigious event highlighting African American accomplishments and contributions. Initiated in 1993 by Turner Broadcasting, the Trumpet Awards has been televised annually and distributed internationally to over 185 countries around the world.
Ms. Clayton began her television career in 1967 and became the south’s first Black person to have her own television show. The Xernona Clayton show was a regular feature on WAGA-TV, CBS affiliate in Atlanta.
Xernona Clayton was employed at Turner Broadcasting for nearly 30 years where she served as a corporate executive. In 1988, Xernona Clayton was appointed Corporate Vice President for Urban Affairs with Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. In this capacity, she directed internal and external projects for the Corporation, and served as liaison between Turner Broadcasting (TBS SuperStation, CNN, Headline News, TNT, Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks) and civic groups in Atlanta and across the country. As a corporate executive, Ms. Clayton was one of the highest-ranking female employees in Turner Broadcasting System.
Xernona moved to Atlanta in 1965 where she accepted a position with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and worked closely with the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ms. Clayton also traveled extensively with Mrs. Coretta Scott King on her nationwide concert tours.
Dedicated to promoting racial understanding, Xernona Clayton has been a leader in civic projects and civil rights activities for several years. In 1966, she coordinated the activities of Atlanta ’s Black doctors in a project called Doctors’ Committee for Implementation , which resulted in the desegregation of all hospital facilities in Atlanta . This project served as a model and a pilot for other states throughout the country and received national honor from the National Medical Association for its impact.
Her persistent fight against the dragons of prejudice and bigotry was never more apparent than in 1968, when the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan denounced the Klan and credited Xernona’s influence with his change.
Ms. Clayton’s dedication to the community is reflected in the many hours she spends promoting human relations through bi-racial groups devoted to improving racial understanding.
A recipient of numerous media awards, Xernona has been widely honored for her contributions to humanity. She is included in various editions of some very impressive biographical publications.
“The Peaceful Warrior” a biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. authored by her late husband Ed Clayton and co-authored by Xernona in the revised editions, has been published in several languages. Xernona Clayton’s autobiography, “I’ve Been Marching All the Time” , was published in 1991.
In private life, she is married to Judge Paul L. Brady. She is a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church , formerly co-pastored by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
In recognition of Xernona’s contribution to broadcasting, her community and the nation, the American Intercultural Student Exchange (AISE) has created a scholarship in her honor. Each year, since 1987, Ms. Clayton chooses an outstanding minority high school student to spend a year living abroad with a European family, all expenses paid. The Xernona Clayton Scholarship is dedicated to increasing open relationships, internationally, through a global high school student exchange program. Additionally, the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists named its scholarship in her honor and annually presents the Xernona Clayton Scholarship to a student pursuing a career in communications.
NAMIC (the National Association of Minorities in Cable) presented, to Ms. Clayton, its highest award, the Mickey Leland Award , which honors the late United States Congressman. Xernona, along with former Congressman Kweisi Mfume and the late Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown, was awarded the 1996 Distinguished Leadership Award by NAFEO (The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education) at impressive ceremonies in Washington , D.C. She also received NAFEO’s 2003 Corporate Award . In 2000, Clark/Atlanta University conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Letters Degree on Ms. Clayton.
She was additionally honored in 2004 with two very impressive awards. Spelman College presented Ms. Clayton the first Local Community Service Award, for her continued dedication to leadership in the community. The State of Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity presented her with the Leadership and Dedication in Civil Rights Award.
Along with her other honors, she has received the first Coretta Scott King Award from the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) the Madam C. J. Walker Award from EBONY’S Outstanding Women in Marketing and Communications, the Outstanding Corporate Professional Award from the PowerNetworking Family and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Degree from Tennessee State University.
Upon the announcement of Xernona’s appointment as the first Black female corporate executive, Ted Turner said, “Xernona has an impressive record of accomplishments and we are proud to recognize her commitment to bettering human relations with this promotion.”