Clifford E. Minton (1911–2007)

Clifford E. Minton was a prominent Arkansas-born African American who spent a lifetime dedicated to social services. He is best known in Arkansas for his work with the Urban League of Greater Little Rock (ULGLR), especially with gaining employment for African Americans during the buildup of defense facilities for World War II.

Clifford E. Minton was born on July 24, 1911, in Des Arc (Prairie County), the elder of two sons of Frank Minton and Jessie Carter Minton. His father was a skilled machine operator and millwright at the Bowman Hoop Plant. He credits his realization of racial inequality with such early experiences as seeing the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) march by the African Methodist Episcopal Church while he and his family were inside; the burning of his home in 1918; and the stories his grandfather, Gip Minton, told of the Elaine Massacre of 1919. Another incident that had a dramatic influence on him was the 1927 lynching of John Carter in Little Rock (Pulaski County), to which Minton was a witness, hiding in a church. These experiences instilled in him a desire to do all in his power to improve the situation.

Minton attended school first in Des Arc in a one-room school for all eight grades. His mother died in 1922, and Minton was sent to Little Rock in 1925 to live with family friends so he could attend Gibbs Elementary School and then the Philander Smith Preparatory School.

With whatever money his father could send and what he could earn at several different jobs, Minton finished Philander Smith Preparatory School and attended Philander Smith College. He graduated in 1935 with a BA in social studies. His later education included graduate work at Fisk University, American University, and Indiana University. He earned an MA from Western Reserve University of Cleveland, Ohio, while working with the Urban League in Cleveland. He later received training and certification from the National Academy of Social Workers in community organizational specialization.

When he completed his undergraduate work at Philander Smith College, he went to work as an assistant draftsman with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) at Charlotte (Independence County). This camp was one of eight camps for African Americans in Arkansas and was organized on August 7, 1935. In 1937, he became principal of Northview Junior High School in Morrilton (Conway County). After that, he became head of Hillside School in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). While at Hillside, he organized a summer recreational program, established a community center, and embarked on a number of social and civic endeavors.

On June 13, 1938, he married Alma Hawkins. They had no children.

On February 20, 1937, Amelia B. Ives and an interracial group of Pulaski County citizens met with Jessie O. Thomas of the National Urban League to establish the ULGLR. The ULGLR was established to change the status quo and provide services to facilitate the transition of African Americans to better jobs, housing, and educational opportunities. Minton volunteered to help the ULGLR in several ways, especially with fundraising, and in December 1939 he was hired as the ULGLR’s executive secretary.

Minton assisted with one of the first tasks of the newly formed ULGLR to conduct a survey of conditions among African Americans in Arkansas. He went on to assist black carpenters to become unionized so they could obtain employment on the expansion of Camp Joseph T. Robinson. His work with the carpenters received national recognition. He worked with the managers of the Maumelle Ordnance Works at Marche (Pulaski County) and the Arkansas Ordnance Plant at Jacksonville (Pulaski County) to supply places for African Americans to apply for employment at these facilities. He obtained listings of available jobs and qualifications from the managers of the ordnance plants, assisting interested African Americans in the process of applying for the jobs and getting any necessary training. Fundraising was another part of his job, and his wife and his brother, Paul Minton, assisted with this task.

In 1942, he served on a committee to bring a black United Services Organization (USO) to Little Rock to serve the black soldiers at Camp Joseph T. Robinson and black employees at the ordnance plants, resulting in the opening of the USO center on Ninth Street in Little Rock. In 1943, he was awarded a pin and certificate for over 100 hours of volunteer services with the Ninth Street USO. He also assisted with getting African-American policemen assigned to patrol Ninth Street in Little Rock after a black soldier, Sergeant Thomas B. Foster, was killed by a white policeman there.

In October 1943, he obtained a leave of absence from the ULGLR to serve as military welfare director of the American Red Cross in North Africa and Europe. In December 1945, he returned to his position with the ULGLR. In less than a year, he accepted a post as director of the Department of Industrial Relations in the Cleveland, Ohio, Urban League. In 1949, he accepted the executive directorship of the Urban League of Gary, Indiana. He held that position for sixteen years. In 1965, after twenty-seven years with various Urban League chapters, he entered into a variety of positions with the federal government, beginning as a field representative of the U.S. Office of Education.

Minton was also a writer. He contributed to a 1944 book by Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, and to the 1968 report of President Lyndon Johnson’s National Commission on Civil Disorders (known as the Kerner Report). In 2001, he published a book, America’s Black Trap.

After Minton retired, he and his wife made frequent donations to Philander Smith College and to other colleges from the Minton Foundation they established. In 1998, they donated $50,000 to Philander Smith to start the Black Family Studies Program. Alma Minton continued to teach and retired after forty-two years in the Gary, Indiana, schools.

Minton and his wife died by drowning on April 3, 2007, near Valparaiso, Indiana, when their car veered off the highway and down an embankment into a lake.

For additional information:
“AOP Completed; To Employ Negroes.” Arkansas State Press, July 11, 1942, pp. 1, 8.

Clifford E. Minton Papers. Calumet Regional Archives. John W. Anderson Library. Indiana University Northwest, Gary, Indiana.

“Education.” Jet Magazine, November 30, 1998, p. 25.

Minton, Clifford E. America’s Black Trap. Gary, Indiana: Alpha Book Company, 2001.

“Negro Skilled Workers Employed at Camp Robinson.” Arkansas State Press, August 8, 1941, pp. 1, 6.

Orr, Tabitha. “Clifford Minton’s War: The Struggle for Black Jobs in Wartime Little Rock, 1940–1946.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 76 (Spring 2017): 23–48.

Urban League of Arkansas, Inc. Golden Anniversary Celebration 1937–1987. Little Rock: Urban League, 1987.

“USO to Honor Volunteers.” Arkansas State Press, July 2, 1943, p. 4.

Carolyn Yancey Kent
Jacksonville, Arkansas


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