JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) – On Tuesday, a school named after U.W. Clemon, Alabama’s first Black federal judge, will open in Adamsville. U.W. Clemon Elementary School will combine the student bodies of Hillview Elementary and Crumly Chapel Elementary.
Clemon spent his life as a civil rights lawyer handling school and job discrimination cases, including ones within the Jefferson County School District. He had a chance to tour the new building on Monday.
“Marvelous, marvelous,” Clemon said as he walked around with school administrators and family. “I’m extremely honored, grateful to God and to the folks who made it possible here on Earth.”
It’s an accomplishment he said he could never have imagined. Clemon practiced civil rights law before he was appointed as the state’s first Black federal judge.
Stout vs. the Jefferson County Board of Education is a case he’s well known for. He said it sets the standard for school desegregation in the south.
“We certainly have come an amazingly long way over the last 50 years,” Clemon said. “I’m afraid that some recent events tell us that we’ve yet got a long way to go, but I thank God that we’ve come this far and we’re not going to turn back.”
Walking through the school named in her father’s honor, Michelle Clemon said it’s a full circle moment now 50 years later.
“I know that he regards having the school named after him as one of the highest honors of his life,” Michelle said. “When it’s all said and done, his name remains through the school.”
This is a legacy Clemon wants kids to understand once they walk through the building doors.
“There should be no limits on the opportunities available to young people,” he said. “I want all kids to realize that the God who made us, made us equal.”
The school is focused around five pillars: excellence, humility, courage, fearlessness and justice. Michelle said the students will learn about what these words mean and her father’s legacy every time they enter the school.