- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame
Xernona Clayton
Xernona Clayton
1930 - present

Xernona Clayton is a civil rights leader and pioneering broadcasting executive best known as the founder and CEO of the Trumpet Awards (1993), an annual awards program televised by the TBS network and distributed internationally to over 185 countries. The program features the accomplishments of African Americans in a variety of fields. Clayton also is the driving force behind the complementary project the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Sitein Atlanta. Clayton worked undercover for the Chicago Urban League investigating employment discrimination before moving to Atlanta in 1965 to organize events for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She developed a deep friendship with Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King. In 1966, Clayton also coordinated the activities of Atlanta's African American physicians in Doctors' Committee for Implementation. That project helped force the desegregation of all hospital facilities in Atlanta. As a journalist, Clayton wrote a column for the Atlanta Voice, and in 1967, she became the first black person in the South to host a regularly scheduled prime-time television talk show. The program initially called Variations became The Xernona Clayton Show; it was broadcast on the Atlanta CBS affiliate WAGA-TV. When Calvin Craig, the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia, appeared on her program, Clayton began a dialogue with him that influenced him to resign from the Klan and renounce the organization. Clayton later hosted the public affairs program Open Up for the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS). She also produced documentaries for TBS. In the early 1980s, Clayton became the first black woman corporate executive at TBS when Ted Turner appointed her director and vice-president of public affairs. She became the media giant's assistant corporate vice-president for urban affairs in 1988. In that capacity, she served as a liaison between Turner Broadcasting and local as well as national community organizations..

Xernona and her twin sister Xenobia were the daughters of Rev. and Mrs. James Brewster, administrators of Indian affairs in Muskogee, Oklahoma. In 1952, Clayton earned her undergraduate degree with honors from Tennessee State Agricultural and Industrial College (now Tennessee State University). She pursued graduate studies at the University of Chicago. She was married to fellow civil rights activist Ed Clayton (1957-1966) until his death. She also co-authored a revised edition of her late husband's biography of Martin Luther King Jr. called The Peaceful Warrior. Clayton is currently married to retired jurist Paul L. Brady, the first African-American appointed a Federal Administrative Law Judge. In 1991 Clayton published her autobiography I've Been Marching All The Time.

Clayton has received numerous awards for her activism, including the SCLC Drum Major for Justice Award; the National Association of Minorities in Cable's Mickey Leland Award; the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education's Distinguished Leadership Award; and the State of Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity's Leadership and Dedication in Civil Rights Award.