Nan Clayton

As Interviewed by Emily Robinett, March 4, 2013
"You can't like everyone, but you have to have a reason to dislike them."
Nan Clayton

Introductory Profile: About Nan Clayton

Nan Clayton served on the Austin Independent School District school board for fourteen years. At this time, the desegregation of schools in Austin was taking place. Nan had just graduated from UT, where she witnessed many protests and sit-ins advocating for desegregation. When I emailed her, she was very eager to answer my questions about her advocacy for equality in the education system and the things she witnessed corresponding with desegregation. She came to the conclusion that even though schools had been desegregated, the schools were not equal in quality, specifically in East Austin, where a majority of the African Americans lived. She went on the school board with the intention to make a change. She wanted to give opportunities and represent areas in Austin that had no voice.

Nan Clayton is an average height woman with short white hair. Her pleasant eyes are always shining behind her wire-rimmed glasses. The lines around her eyes show her experience sheís had with being around children. She has a bright, cheerful smile, especially since she spends so much time around students at her school. Nan Clayton Elementary was opened in the 2006-2007 school year, for grades K-5. The principal of the school is none other than Dru Robinett, my mother. Our interview took place in the conference room of this school. Both of us had missed lunch, but we casually caught up before grabbing a sandwich from Subway after the interview. Ms. Clayton is an extremely sharp woman with a warm personality. She has a talent for telling stories and is extremely dedicated to the kids at her school.

Nan Clayton showed sympathy to those who struggled around her. Later in her life, she went to high school and to the University of Texas at a time when desegregation was a severe issue occurring. When she graduated college, she had gotten a degree in zoology and chemistry, as well as receiving a Masterís in Chemical Education. Later, she began working in the Austin Independent School District. While she was on the Board, she was also a member of the League of Women Voters and South Austin Civic Club. During her time in all of these groups, she advocated for equality among all schools.

Ms. Claytonís views about the time of desegregation and inequality in the district were very much different from the views I have heard others express. They provided me with a new perspective. While most look at these times as being hopeless, and depressing, she looked upon the moments of glory and heroism. Her stories werenít about the tragedies of desegregation, but the triumphs. I found our interview to be very uplifting. Her faith in the community really lifted my spirits and made me think about this time differently. I really enjoyed her optimism and found that she had a very conversational way to responding to my interview questions. Her story has inspired me, in many ways, to know that our community is capable of changing the world when we all come together and learn to accept one another. I feel as though if she wanted everyone to take one thing away from what she said, it would be to take the first step, and have courage to make a change.