François Clemmons was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1945 on the plantation where his great great grandmother Laura May’s family had been slaves, then he moved with his mother and siblings and aunts and cousins to Youngstown, Ohio during the Great Migration. Youngstown is where he started singing, and he never stopped singing. He sings in the middle of sentences, he sings on the way to the bathroom, he sings like the world depends on it, which maybe it does.
But you know him already. Or those of you who are of a certain age. For twenty-five years François played Officer Clemmons on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. And recently he wrote a book about it, called Officer Clemmons.
Now he lives in Middlebury, Vermont. I drove over there to talk with him about his life in the South and about Mr. Rogers, one of the great loves of his life.
Credits and More
Clemmons’ memoir, Officer Clemmons
Additional music by Brian Clark
Article in Seven Days about François Clemmons by Dan Bolles. Thank you Dan for writing it.