His story begins almost 82 years ago in Endicott, NY, born to a 17-year-old widow, as Father passed away before Clay was born.
Clay’s odyssey from high school graduation and a stop at the Syracuse University extension campus took him to Bethany College in West Virginia, with as many students on campus as there were town residents. His degree was accompanied with ordination as clergy in the Disciples of Christ Church, the first Protestant denomination born on American soil. Clay started his ministry near Bethany in Bellsville, Ohio in 1958.
Next, to Russellville, IN, for his first congregation. However, he wasn’t as welcome as he wished when his preaching on race relations were received by some in the pews as a little too Christ-ian, so he moved his young family to nearby Indianapolis and spent seven years with the CBS, then the ABC network affiliate stations working in local news production. If he hadn’t left CBS and crossed the street to the local ABC station, he would have been weatherman Dave Letterman’s producer.
In 1967 Clay and his family relocated and set up housekeeping in Columbus, where he joined the production staff at the PBS member station WOSU-Ch.34 and he produced and hosted a community affairs program, “Crisis,” televising interviews and panel discussion. This program earned a local EMMY Award for coverage in the African-American community in the wake of riots in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. While working at the Ohio State University Clay earned his doctorate, and in 1970 moved again, this time to Athens, GA to teach at the University of Georgia. For two years he taught television production and photography in the journalism department before coming home to Columbus where he held professorship in the Communications Department, including the chair seat for four years, until his retirement in 1992.
A man with many students who have worked throughout the world, and with many friends in Columbus and beyond, Clay has maintained an active post-academic life. With co-host John DeSando he produced over 400 movie review programs on WCBE 90.5 FM, plus a series of films at the Columbus Museum of Art. He also entertained friends at his comfortable, book-laden home on Walhalla Ravine, his “salons,” a tradition he continued when he returned from a brief tenure in Vermont and set up living in a rustic farmhouse cottage surrounded by residential developments near Powell.
Clay, let’s start. What are your CORE VALUES? “Family, friends, and unconditional love, which is very tough to practice sometimes. In order to avoid hatred, forgiveness is an absolute necessity.”
CURRENT PERSONAL MISSION TO EFFECT CHANGE: “Rebuilding relationships.”
Clay’s EARLIEST MEMORY: He has a couple, both when he was about 3. 1) While running barefoot outside, recalling his mother shout a warning, “Watch out for broken glass.” 2) His mother quickly sweeping him up in her arms, gathering some belongings and heading to the train station to flee town, upon hearing Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” on the radio and believing that aliens had invaded Earth.
His FEEL OF HUMAN CONNECTIVITY: “A symbiosis, like my feeling of one-ness with the deer grazing outside my farmhouse cottage.” He used this analogy in describing the people of the lakeside village of Tobermory, Ontario that he used to visit annually.
On the SCARCITY/ABUNDANCE spectrum: Clay claims “abundance” in matters of money and material, but in terms of friendships, “I’m the richest, I am the 1%.” Scarcity in Clay’s life is the physical restrictions of his small apartment.
His proverbial “BOX” that we’re often encouraged to THINK OUTSIDE OF: “My own self-imposed limitations.”
Where do your IDEAS come from? Who/What is your MUSE? “Books, movies, trusted friends.”
And UNCERTAINTY: “I don’t know how I feel about that!”
Henceforth 5-YEARS from now, 2023? Personally, “More health issues, but I don’t fear death. I’m afraid the economic segregation in Columbus will worsen, and I don’t see matters improving for non-whites. Fascism could develop”
ANCESTRY: Clay never saw his father but has studied on the Lowe family and they were substantially successful in America. Clay is well-versed on his mother’s family tree.
Finally, Clay…WHATCHA READIN’? “I have two separate translations of DON QUIXOTE on my nightstand right now.”
Much THANKS to you, Clay.
And THANKS, too, toward all readers of “CAFFEINE COMMUNION.”
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