Black History Month Alabama Icons: U.S. Judge U.W. Clemon

By Mark Jerald

Alabama NewsCenter

From student activist to a chief federal judge, U.W. Clemon has a strong history of fighting for equality. (Mark Jerald, Alabama NewsCenter)
From student activist to a chief federal judge, U.W. Clemon has a strong history of fighting for equality. (Mark Jerald, Alabama NewsCenter)

U.W. Clemon can correctly be called a number of things.

Student activist, civil rights foot soldier, civil rights attorney and state senator are all titles that fit.

But it was as the first black federal judge for the Northern District of Alabama and as a chief federal judge where Clemon left his most lasting impression.

The now-retired judge went toe to toe with two legendary Alabama figures. He sued Paul “Bear” Bryant’s football team over integration and was a constant opponent to Gov. George Wallace when Clemon was a state senator.

“I moved always by the words of (Alfred, Lord) Tennyson in ‘Ulysses,’” Clemon said. “‘Though much is taken, much abides; and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are, one (equal) temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’”