Book Review: Officer Clemmons: A Memouir

If you are a follower of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, then you will certainly know the character Officer Clemmons. This character was played on the show by now Dr. Francois S. Clemmons from the show’s start in 1968 until 1993. The book is very detailed and thorough about his many rainbows of life with not only growing up in the Jim Crow and poor south, but struggling discovering his true identity and trying to fit in as not only a person of color, but as a gay person, thus doubling the rainbow for him. All this combined with issues within his home with his step dad and mother as they prayed for these latter feelings to go away was even so more difficult. Many times he would face many challenges, many similar to those on the spectrum face constantly.

His segway to Pittsburgh, WQED and what was known as “The Neighborhood” in 1968 was through his initial studies in Ohio at Oberlin College, then getting to Graduate School in the Steel City at what is now known as Carnegie Mellon University. There he would be introduced to Fred Rogers and the show through his early work by Francois working at the Presbyterian Church there. This was all during the 1968 MLK Assasination riots that litterally burned up the Hill District around him where he was staying in a boarding house, of which Fred wanted him to stay with him until the “Hill” got settled.”

Later when he signed on full time in the genesis of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Fred stated that someone in the studio caught him at the gaybar and that while Fred was okay with homosexuality, he suggested getting married because that was the thing to do. So in a few weeks he married a former classmate from high school although they lived together for a month before separating for almost four years before divorcing because his wife wanted to remarry. During that point he struggled with everything under the sun that several persons face on the spectrum today.

Nonetheless, he had countless ventures and committed to them over the years before and after Mr. Rogers neighborhood. But Fred himself intergrated many things in a time of uncertainty including sharing their feet in a kiddie pool of water during the tensions of the Civil Rights movement.

Needless the say Dr. Clemmons is an accomplished man and Fred helped him get there and I have included a few quotes from the book to emphasize that.

““Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like ‘struggle.’ To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.””

FRED ROGERS

““You did the right thing, Franç. You can’t run away from these bad experiences. People like that would love to see you defeated and humiliated. Stay strong and know that your friends and your family here in Pittsburgh will be praying for you. You can call whenever you need to, and when this is over, and it won’t last forever, you can shake the dust from your sandals and come here where your family loves you. You deserve our love and support.””

Fred Rogers

“There are many ways to say I love you
There are many ways to say I care about you.
Many ways, many ways, many ways to say I love you.
There’s the singing way to say I love you
There’s the singing something someone really likes to hear,
The singing way, the singing way, the singing way to say I love you.
Cleaning up a room can say I love you.
Hanging up a coat before you’re asked to
Drawing special pictures for the holidays and Making plays.

You’ll find many ways to say I love you.
You’ll find many ways to understand what love is.
Many ways, many ways, many ways to say I love you.
Singing, cleaning,
Drawing, being
Understanding,
Love you.”

Song by Fred Rogers

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