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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William and Josephine Clement, June 19, 1986. Interview C-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Family background

Josephine Clement describes her family background, focusing specifically on the upbringing of her father and mother. Josephine describes how her father's family struggled economically when he was a child and his determined efforts to receive an education, whereas she describes her mother as having come from a more middle-class background. For both of her parents, education and family were of central importance; Josephine stresses this as a motivating force in her own life here and throughout the interview.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William and Josephine Clement, June 19, 1986. Interview C-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WALTER WEARE:
Well, while we're talking about Masonry and your father, maybe now is the time to make this transition and get back to talking about your parents and your childhood and early memories like that. Tell us a little bit about your mother and father, maybe starting with your father. Do you know when and where he was born, particularly where and what he did as a young man?
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
Yes. My father was born in Kennesaw, out from Kennesaw, in Cobb County.
WALTER WEARE:
This is Georgia?
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
In Georgia, yes. They were poor farming people. His father died and his mother left the two children with the father's parents. She went to Savannah to work. So he grew up with that large family along with some of the younger ones. She did not forget them, though. He always said he could have stayed up there in Kennesaw, but she came back and got them. I presume when they were old enough to take care of themselves, because she had to work and they had to work. They went to Savannah first and then they came to Atlanta. He was fifteen years old when they came to Atlanta. My father was born in 1882. And he was able to attend the academy at Morehouse. Here, again, all of the colleges had their own high schools, and the academy was an outstanding part of their offering. He would like to tell stories about how he would get up early. He worked for a physician by the name of McDougald, who incidentally was a brother to the McDougalds here.
WALTER WEARE:
R. L.
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
Yes. He was the oldest brother in that family and he was a pharmacist. He had a drugstore and it was my father's job to open it up in the morning, clean it up, in the winter time to make the fire; in other words, to get it ready for Dr. McDougald when he came in. Then Daddy would get on his bicycle and ride across town, and there was a steep hill going down Fair Street right into Morehouse. And he'd like to tell about how he'd hear the bell ringing in the tower, which is still there at Morehouse, and he would go sliding down that hill into chapel, practically. He went two years in the college department. By that time, he felt the necessity to stop and go to work to help his widowed mother and his sister. So he never actually completed college at Morehouse, but he went there six years: academy and college. My mother had a more middle-class upbringing. Her father was a barber and a businessman. He and his partner owned two barbershops in Columbus - one for whites and one for blacks. And they lived rather well for the little town of Columbus, that they had. My mother was privately educated and was a graduate of Union Academy in Columbus, at sixteen years of age. Got her certificate, her license to teach. But her father would not permit her to leave Columbus. He said if she could get a job in Columbus she could teach, but conditions were very bad.
WALTER WEARE:
Was Union a church-related school?
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
I really don't know anything about it. I'm sorry that I don't.
WALTER WEARE:
It no longer exists, does it?
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
I doubt it. I would doubt it, but that would be interesting to try to find out. But she graduated in 1901.
JUANITA WEARE:
Do we have her maiden name?
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
Irene Ophelia Thompson, she was. And her father would not let her go out to teach because conditions were so bad for young unprotected girls, and particularly if they were attractive and my mother was sort of, I guess you'd call, a ? woman type. Anyhow, she had a sister who was married and living in Atlanta and she would go up to visit her periodically and when her new baby was coming, and she met my father when she was nineteen. They married two years after that. They were very much in love. They had a marriage of fifty-five years. I can remember one day my mother said, "Just think, I'm seventy-five years old and my husband sent me yellow roses." That was her favorite. Very romantic. There were six girls born in my family; they had no sons. (My father was hopeful to the end.)