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A.J. Clement papers

Identifier: SCL-MS-12855

Upon the death of Charlestonian A.J. Clement, Jr. (1908-1986), the city's mayor, Joseph P. Riley, Jr., cited him as a pioneer among Black business leaders "during a time of changing attitudes of the white race toward race relations." Riley credited Clement with helping to hasten "this positive change which improved our community." Further declaring that the city had lost one of its most dedicated citizens, the mayor alluded to Clement's many and diverse commitments—"There were no community concerns that did not have his interest. I served on many boards and commissions with Mr. Clement, and he never attended a meeting without making a positive contribution."

The papers of Arthur John Howard Clement, Jr.—consisting of thirteen and three-quarters linear feet of letters, speeches, news clippings, reports, programs, photographs, and miscellaneous printed items—reflect the life and times of their subject and provide the South Caroliniana Library with one of its most valuable resources for the study of twentieth-century business, educational, social, and political leadership in South Carolina. The collection is also of major significance as a principal addition to its holdings on the history of the state's African-American community.

The largest units are comprised of alphabetical letter files and chronological biographical files which reveal the range of Clement's interests and connections. Family-related items reveal that his father served as the pattern for his own business success and commitment to public service. A graduate of Biddle University in Charlotte, NC, Arthur, Sr., completed forty years with the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company (1909-1949). He served as a ruling elder and clerk of session of Zion Presbyterian Church, Charleston, and as president of the Charleston Branch of the National Association of Colored People and of the city's Colored Branch of the Young Men's Christian Association. In a letter of 5 May 1971, Arthur, Jr., recalls that his father had started the branch in the early 1900s—"He was amongst the men who selected and bought the land on Cannon St. When the YMCA was dormant, he paid the notes on the property and sponsored programs to keep it going."

The North Carolina Mutual Life segment of the collection provides not only a history of the company itself in the Carolinas and beyond, but also documents the younger Clement's role in it from 1930 to 1967, from his assignments with the Charleston District (1930-1937, 1942-1955) to his managerial leadership in the Savannah, GA (1937-1942), Newark, NJ (1955-1961), Los Angeles, CA (1961-1963) and Philadelphia, PA (1963-1967) districts. Among the most interesting early business-related items is a copy of the program from the first meeting of the South Carolina Negro Life Insurance Association, which was held in Charleston on 24 April 1936. In addition to correspondence, this unit includes company bulletins, minutes, position papers, specimen work sheets and publications.

Education is another topical focus of the Clement papers. Various items reveal his particular connections with Charleston's Avery Institute, which he attended until the ninth grade (1923), and Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC, from which he received both high school (1926) and college (1930) diplomas, and on whose board of trustees he served, 1952-1975, part of that time as chairman.

Clement's files on Voorhees College in Denmark, SC, where he was employed as director of admissions and career counseling (1967-1973), contain essential information on the student boycott and unrest at this institution in 1970, including copies of the statements and demands of the dissident students. Additionally, it includes a record of the response of the faculty and administration and of the state of South Carolina, which at one point sent National Guardsmen onto the campus. Earlier, in a letter to students of 8 May 1968, Clement had written that it was foolish "to support any RACIST idea that all of our associates [at Voorhees] should be BLACK, WHITE, or any other COLOR....In the kind of every day world in which you will have to survive, ability will be far more important than color."

In 1976 Clement was appointed to the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, and in the collection are the working papers from his tenure on the commission, which lasted until 1980. There is also material on The Citadel, Hampton Institute (Virginia), Howard University (which his sons, William J. and Howard III, attended), the Medical University of South Carolina (whose Area Health Education Center he served as a member of its advisory council), South Carolina State College—and even on the Charles Towne Montessori School and Porter-Gaud (to whose Advancement Fund he contributed). A file on the Charleston County School District, 1973-1986, indicates his vital interest in the welfare and quality of public education in Charleston and his direct role in promoting it.

Several small but key components of Clement's papers underscore his basic interest in politics, which was closely allied to his enduring concern for racial equity and social justice. Among the most important of these topical files are those relating to the South Carolina Progressive Democratic Party, 1944-1953, which contain essential correspondence with the organization's principal founder and state chairman, John H. McCray, as well as copies of reports, resolutions and memoranda. In a letter published in the 24 May 1973 issue of Osceola, Clement stated that there were "two organizations of independent Negroes in South Carolina, who raised the necessary monies, then legally and successfully fought through the courts for admission into the South Carolina Democratic Primary." One of these was the Progressive Democratic Party.

The other was the NAACP, the Charleston branch of which Clement headed for seven years, from 1948 until 1955, when his company transferred him to New Jersey. He subsequently served on NAACP boards in Newark, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Charleston (where he retired in 1967). Among his letters is one dated 25 October 1985 in which he wrote Benjamin Hooks, then the organization's national executive secretary, that it had "a vital and viable service to render our total society." "The African-American and the White Middle-Class that have the finances to support your organization, and out of a social consciousness would be proud to have a membership," he declared, "are now ‘turned off.'" He concluded—"I see no reason why NAACP should not set a program to recapture the status that brought it to its peak in 1954 when it was the key organization in bringing America to the fullness of its Declaration of Independence and its Constitution. You should return to that PEAK." A file on the South Carolina Republican Party documents Clement's association with it from 1972 to 1985. In particular, it outlines his unsuccessful run as a Republican for the South Carolina House of Representatives, and contains minutes from a 1977 executive committee meeting of the Charleston County Republican Party. In 1975 Clement addressed the party convention, telling the delegates that both Charleston and the state needed "an alert, dynamic two-party system." "The Democrats have taken a wanton, negative attitude towards the needs of the state and the city," he declared. A decade later he was awarded a certificate recognizing his "outstanding support of our Party's goals and efforts." Among his chief correspondents in this connection was Governor James B. Edwards, who in a letter of 8 April 1974 thanked Clement for his offer of support in Edwards’s campaign for Governor." In 1975 Edwards appointed him to the South Carolina Bicentennial Commission.

Twenty-seven years earlier, however, Clement had run for local office as a Democrat. In 1948 he had offered against nineteen white candidates for one of seven slots on the then newly-authorized Charleston County Council. Placing fifth in the primary, he was defeated in the election held on 21 October 1948. Then, in 1950, he opposed incumbent L. Mendel Rivers as congressional representative from the First District, the first African-American in the history of South Carolina to run for Congress as a Democrat. Included in the collection is Clement's 1950 strategy notebook, in which he has outlined his campaign techniques, listed engagements and important dates, named members of his committee and county contacts, and kept clippings of the news coverage as well as an account of his expenses. In a clipping from the Atlanta World on 16 July 1950, the editor congratulates Clement and states that although he was badly beaten, "his race...served to educate white voters and to give Negroes a keener interest and appreciation for the right of the franchise." Ralph McGill, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, was one of several persons who wrote to congratulate him. "I think you showed a lot of courage and that the results of your campaigning will be most helpful in the future," McGill remarked in a letter of 22 July 1950.

Clement's extensive City of Charleston letter files, especially his correspondence with Mayor Riley, as well as that with the local newspapers, particularly with editor Thomas R. Waring, attest to his multiple concerns for the welfare of all the citizens of his native place. Other files contain Clement's own published letters and columns which appeared sporadically in the Charleston News & Courier and with some regularity in the Evening Post between 1977 and 1986.

In addition to the organizations and institutions already mentioned through which Clement channeled his commitments in business, education, politics and race relations, the collection reveals the many other outlets which served the wide range of his civic, social and cultural interests. For instance, he was an avid supporter of the Boy Scouts, and his files on this organization, spanning more than half his life (1936-1986), comprise a virtual history of Black Boy Scouting in South Carolina and of his own leadership in this endeavor. Among the final items in the papers chronologically is the acknowledgment of a gift made in 1986 to the Coastal Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts of America in memory of Clement.

Furthermore, among many others, there are files on Alpha Phi Alpha, the fraternity of which he was a loyal member from his college days in the late 1920s right up to his death; and on such social groups as the Athenians and the exclusive Owls Whist Club, the latter founded in Charleston in 1914. Material on the Stagecrafters, a group made up "of persons sincerely interested in the theatre and allied arts," attests to his involvement in Charleston drama circles (he himself appeared in local productions). His extensive files on Spoleto U.S.A., 1976-1986, may be among the only ones to have survived in private hands documenting the work of the original Festival Foundation board of directors, to which he was appointed in 1976. In addition, during the last decade of his life, Clement was an active Charleston Rotarian who kept the club's letters, board minutes, publications and miscellaneous mail-outs from 1977, when he joined, to 1986.

Further topical and correspondence files reveal the range and richness of the Clement collection. Among those included are the American Association of Retired Persons, the Charleston Trident Chamber of Commerce, the Episcopal Church, Foster Grandparents, the Hope Center for the Retarded, Hospice of Charleston, the Kitani Foundation, The Links, the Mutual Benevolent Society, Omega Psi Phi, the Preservation Society of Charleston, the Salvation Army of Charleston, the South Carolina Council on Aging, the South Carolina Council on Human Relations, South Carolina Educational Television, the Southern Regional Council, Trident United Way, and the Urban League.


  • 1926 - 1986


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All rights reside with creator. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact The South Caroliniana Library.


13.75 Linear Feet (11 cartons)


1908: Born, Charleston, SC, son of Arthur John Howard Clement, Sr., and Sadie K. Jones Clement

1926: Graduated Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, NC (high school)

1930: Graduated Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, NC (college degree in mathematics)

1930-1937: North Carolina Mutual Life, Charleston, SC, District

1937-1942: North Carolina Mutual Life, Savannah, GA, District

1942-1955: North Carolina Mutual Life, Charleston, SC, District

1948: Candidate for Charleston County Council, Charleston, SC

1950: Candidate (Democrat) for United States House of Representatives, First Congressional District, SC, opposing incumbent L. Mendel Rivers

1952-1975: Member, board of trustees, Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, NC

1955-1961: North Carolina Mutual Life, Newark, NJ, District

1961-1963: North Carolina Mutual Life, Los Angeles, CA, District

1963-1967: North Carolina Mutual Life, Philadelphia, PA, District

1967-1973: Voorhees College, Denmark, SC, director of admissions and career counseling

1972: Candidate (Republican) for South Carolina House of Representatives

1975: Appointed to South Carolina Bicentennial Commission by Gov. James B. Edwards

1976: Appointed to Spoleto USA Festival Foundation board of directors

1976-1980: Member, South Carolina Commission on Higher Education

1986: Died, Charleston, SC

Repository Details

Part of the South Caroliniana Library Repository

910 Sumter St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA
(803) 777-5747 (Fax)

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