MORE SAD news. Avery Clayton, son of Mayme Clayton – founder of the Western States Black Research and Education Center, passed away yesterday — Thanksgiving Day. His mother housed three centuries of black literature, movies, music and other essential miscellany in a leaky garage, behind her modest home in Southwest L.A. What I held in my hands made the journey palpable — A Phillis Wheatley chapbook, crumbling Tin Pan Alley sheet music, heavy, brittle 78s. It was much more than sifting through memories; it was time travel, like eavesdropping on circling conversations above. I’d first met Clayton back when I was a reporter at the L.A. Weekly and did a small piece on her in the old Local Heroes column. Once at the L.A. Times, I revisited her and her collection in 2002. After decades of planning, fundraisers, nearly-closed deals, Avery was able to secure a spacious spot in Culver City in an old civic building along Overland Avenue. His mother passed away without witnessing the ribbon-cutting and now Avery won’t be here for the opening. I’d just received an email from him, not a month ago, saying that he wanted to meet, that he had a lot of new information to share, that we’d come a long way.
SURPRISED TO FIND this online. So much of being a journalist is also being an archaeologist.
This one is one of my best reporting memories, even though I almost got irretrivably lost driving east on I-10 almost to Palm Springs. Navagation off in areas so flat, dusty in all that harsh light. Ultimately all worth it to sit with Mr. Smock, a former Pullman Sleeping Car porter, still elegant and dapper, seated in his room full of sleeping car memories. He still plays host in grandstyle — In Safety and Comfort. <