Friday, June 8, 2012

Clifford Tyree, social worker, community activist

Clifford Tyree was born in Columbus at the beginning of the Depression years and got his his high schooling in Chillicothe, when at aged twelve, his mother died. “My father was a cook with the railroad, based in Ross County and I went to live with him in the rail camp. As soon as I finished school, I came back to Columbus.” Cliff entered Ohio State University in 1949 and he said that there was a dynamic group of young Black students during those years. “We had to pay for our own education; there were no scholarships. Some students worked in fraternity houses for no money, just their meals. In 1953 Cliff graduated with a degree in social work and he entered the Franklin County Court’s Juvenile Delinquency Division, whose cases were then separated by color. In the middle 1960s, Cliff served on a national service board, The Citizen’s Crusade Against Poverty, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as Dr. Benjamin Spock, UAW President Walter Reuther and Ralph McGill, Atlanta Constitution publisher. “I was chosen as a representative of poor people and was just overwhelmed by the stature of the other board members. What could I add of any intelligence?” He said the board didn’t initiate as much as it supported the civil rights activities that were going on during the 1960s. He represented Columbus at Dr. King’s funeral in 1968 and remembers the casket being drawn by mules. “The services were inspiring. It was like being at the 1963 March on Washington. It was quite an experience to be a part of.” Whenever there was a community need, Cliff was at the head or organizing it. If a family was burned out of their home, he was the one who saw that they got immediate attention with finding a new place to live. Clifford Tyree passed on in 2011. Arnett Howard

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