Before there was Oprah

There was Xernona Clayton, the first black woman in the South to host a regularly scheduled prime-time talk show (1968). Her guests included Lena Horne and Mahalia Jackson.Xernona Clayton was born August 30, 1930 in Muskogee Oklahoma. Her father was a Baptist minister who instilled in her and her twin sister the importance of being women of achievement. Her first job after graduating from what is now Tennessee State University was working as a spy for the Urban League, exposing workplace discrimination in Chicago. After a few years of teaching school there, she moved to Atlanta where she wrote a column for the Atlanta Voice.  She also worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (and traveled extensively with Coretta Scott King on her concert tours) and for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as a fundraising organizer.  Her work with the Atlanta Doctors’ Committee for Implementation resulted in the desegregation of medical facilities in the city and beyond, as it was used as a pilot program by other cities. In 1968, a Klu Klux Klan Grand Dragon credited her influence as a factor in his denouncing of the organization and changing his views.

In 1979 she began her career with TBS as a producer of documentaries, later worked as coordinator of minority affairs, and assistant corporate vice-president for urban affairs. She used her access to corporate resources to ensure that WTBS promoted the achievements of African Americans around the world. In 1993, she created the Trumpet Awards, which “acknowledge the accomplishments of men and women who have significantly contributed to enhancing the quality of life for all…individuals and/or groups who augment the richness of this great global society by partnering with the cause of justice and equality of all.”

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