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Downtown statue erected to honor longtime Atlanta leader Xernona Clayton

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On International Women’s Day, during a special ceremony, a statue was unveiled at the corner of West Peachtree and Simpson Street, to honor Xernona Clayton. The location of the honor was in an area that was designated as Xernona Clayton Plaza back in 2011.

Revered as a Civil Rights Movement luminary, Clayton, 92, is recognized as a broadcast TV pioneer and philanthropist. Clayton got her start working in the mid 60’s working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and traveling extensively with Corretta Scott King during the Civil Rights Movement with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Clayton later became the first Black person with her own television show in the south. She later worked for Turner Broadcasting for three decades – rising to the company’s executive ranks and has been the recipient of numerous other awards and tributes. Her philanthropy includes creating the Trumpet Awards to commemorate Black humanitarian achievements as well as accomplishments in media and the arts.

Said Clayton on her latest honor, “I’m awed by it all. The mere fact it’s come to this, that people wanted to create something for me. This is not something I asked for. This came from well-wishers, people who think I’ve done something. I’m flattered and honored by the results. I’m speechless today.”

According to the committee that worked for its placement, the 8-foot statue will “serve as a special reminder of the invaluable contributions Xernona Clayton has made to the City of Atlanta, the state of Georgia, and the world.”

“Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, be kind to your neighbor,” Clayton said. “That’s the kind of life I have tried to live. If it brings me to this result, I’m flattered and honored and humbled. Home always has a special place in your heart. But it doesn’t matter the location. Do good and try to help others, improve your neighborhood, improve your friends, broaden circles, increase your support to help other people.”

Ed Dwight, the sculptor of the statue, has done work on 10 other statues across Atlanta and more than 100 nationwide. Dwight said he opted to make the statue white because he believed it personified Clayton’s essence and outfits. According to the project manager, the statue is made of textured bronze and rests on a black-green granite base. It took nine months to complete.

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