1946 National Mother of the Year


Emma Clement, Kentucky

In 1946 the war was over and everyone was concerned with “building a post war world.” When idealism jostled with disillusionment and the return of servicemen and outlining of the United Nations brought hope to the disturbed nation, it was the right time for Emma Clarissa Clement to be selected as the American Mother of 1946.  Mrs. Clement was a church woman and civic leader, a woman of education and refinement.

Emma Clement was an alert and active 71 year old, living in Kentucky, when selected.  Her grandfather had been a runaway slave who found refuge in Rhode Island and raised his family there. Emma was born in Providence.  She went South to college, Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, largest school of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.  It was at Livingstone that Emma met George Clinton Clement, born and raised in the South and studying for the ministry.  They were married on graduation day.

First there was a pastorate in Charlotte, North Carolina, then one in Louisville, Kentucky, the young minister’s wife faithfully playing the piano and helping in every way she could. Then George Clement was elected editor of the denomination’s official paper, Star of Zion. Income was small and the family was getting larger.  Emma took on music pupils. Still they were very careful about giving God the tithe. There was never any question about sending the children to church; they were taken there from the time they were infants and grew up secure in the knowledge of their parents’ and God’s love for them, whatever they might face in the world around them.

Few parents have as much to show for their efforts as George and Emma Clement. Abbie Clement Jackson followed her Mother’s footsteps as a civic and religious leader, once was selected among ten outstanding citizens of Kentucky. As Executive Secretary of the AME Zion Church, as national board member of United Church Women and an official of the YWCA, she was well known in many quarters.

Three sons distinguished themselves in the field of education. Dr. Rufus Clement was the eminent president of Atlanta University. Frederick was a professor of Physics at West Virginia State College. James left his teaching duties at Hood Theological Seminary to serve as a U.S. Army Chaplain, with the rank of major.  Emma Clement Walker, the youngest daughter, was an English professor at Tuskegee Institute.  Ruth served with her husband in Haiti where he directed the inter-American Education Foundation. George Jr. was with the American Red Cross in Italy at the time of his Mother’s selection.  Besides her own, Emma raised three other children, all of whom finished college.

Twelve years after he became an editor, George Clement was elected Bishop, a position he filled until his death in 1934. The family moved again to Louisville. Known as the “most church going and charitable woman ever” by her friends, Emma Clement had time for her community. Not content with serving as national president of the Women’s Society of her denomination, she was active in the Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs. She was a charter member of the Southern Commission on Interracial Cooperation and did much to ease friction between the races.  She served as secretary of the African American division of the Kentucky Field Army Cancer Society.

On December 26, 1952, at the age of 78 Emma Clement died, leaving behind a heritage of good will and Christian sincerity.

Excerpt taken from Mothers of Men, by Lillian Polling