As NCCU Homecoming 2019 came to an end, the School of Business welcomed a "golden eagle breeze" when Joan Clayton-Davis graced the halls of CT Willis on Tuesday, November 12, 2019, presumably returning with the same spirit of hope and ambition she embodied as a budding 1969 business school graduate. As the daughter of a farmer in Person County, she and her siblings grew up—like most African American children during that time—humbly, surrounded by a lot of love and family. They lived on a family farm, fulfilling the daily obligations of farm living but still aspiring to grow and sustain their family’s land.
Born into slavery in 1862, Mrs. Clayton-Davis’s grandfather, Monroe Clayton Sr., purchased the original 200 acres of what is now known as Monroe Clayton Sr. Farm in 1913 at the age of 51. He purchased over 290 acres of farmland and quickly learned the value of agricultural sustainability. He was able to cultivate a business enterprise and develop the means for his family to live and prosper, despite the many obstacles that threatened to deprive him of his rightfully acquired possessions. From 1980 to 2017, the farm was under the management of Mrs. Clayton Davis’s brother Burley M. Clayton, NCCU alumnus, until his death in 2017.
The NCCU footprint runs mightily throughout the lineage of the Clayton family. Mrs. Clayton-Davis, her sister-in-law Joyce Daye Clayton, and her nephew Lucious Clayton led a captive audience of School of Business students in a riveting discussion regarding their NCCU experience, the legacy of their rich family heritage and the recent Century Farm Award presented to her grandfather’s farm, which she, her sister-in-law and oldest brother, Larry Clayton, now manage. Lucious, a 2014 NCCU alumnus, volunteers his technology skills and lends a helping hand to the team. Still a working land, the farm grows and harvests trees and has been a great contributor to the economic growth and welfare of Person County.
Imparting words of wisdom to the business undergraduates, Mrs. Clayton-Davis encouraged them to, “Take full advantage of all you are learning here at North Carolina Central University School of Business. There hasn’t been a time in my life that I haven’t utilized some of the knowledge I acquired through my coursework in my daily interactions.” Joyce Daye Clayton stressed the importance of developing and nurturing relations on campus and beyond that can be useful in personal and professional development. For example, her husband, Burley, utilized the services of many of his trusted and resourceful classmates from NCCU and those he worked with professionally as he managed the farm. Lucious Clayton challenged the students to appreciate the professors and staff at NCCU, especially those in the School of Business. He stated that “they are knowledgeable, second to none, care deeply about student well-being, and demand excellence.”
A Century or Centennial Farm is a farm or ranch in the United States or Canada that has been officially recognized as being owned by a single family for 100 or more years. “Our grandfather established the farm so that our family could be self-sufficient and create opportunities for the community,” says Mrs. Clayton-Davis, and “he promoted education, hard work, and civic engagement of African Americans and wanted to see all reach their full potential.”
“Hearing the story of Mrs. Clayton-Davis and her family’s rich and sustaining history is quite inspirational,” said NCCU senior Destiny Floyd. “As I approach my impending graduation, I am even prouder to be associated with an institution that developed individuals like those in the Clayton family.”
Many members of the Monroe Clayton Sr. family have attended NCCU, where the principles of civic engagement and entrepreneurship are woven throughout the curriculum. There are several generations of NCCU graduates in Mrs. Clayton-Davis’s family. Her sister, Dr. Linda Ann Clayton, graduated from NCCU and became the first fully trained African American female surgical gynecologic oncologist in the United States. She received an honorary doctorate from NCCU in 2005 for her work and publications in medicine, health disparities and public health. Her brother, Burley M. Clayton, attended NCCU's School of Business after the Vietnam War, received his BSC and then his MBA, and became the first African American purchasing director in Durham County. He married Joyce Daye Clayton, BA and MA in History, and their son, Lucious, graduated in 2014 with a degree in Computer Information Systems and provides assistance as needed.
Other family members who are NCCU graduates include Attorney T. T. Clayton and his wife, Congresswoman Eva Clayton, who was the first African American female to represent North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives; Joyce Clayton Nichols, the first female and first African American to become a physician assistant in America; art teacher A. M. Celestine Clayton Roberts; political scientist Professor Dewey Monroe Clayton; and educators Helen Lindsey, Karma Lindsey Branch, Mary Ann Drumright, Sherie Allen, Cinzia Petty Harris, and Stavonna Petty. Latrise Collins Clayton is currently enrolled in a graduate program in Information Science at NCCU.
“It is through the paths that the Clayton family have paved that I can walk with ease into a successful future,” says Destiny Floyd.