Officer Clemmons: A Memoir



The intimate debut memoir by the man known to the world as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood's Officer Clemmons, who made history as the first African American actor to have a recurring role on a children's television program.

When he created the role of Officer Clemmons on the award-winning television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, François Clemmons made history as the first African American actor to have a recurring role on a children's program. A new, wide world opened for Clemmons--but one that also required him to make painful personal choices and sacrifices. Officer Clemmons details Clemmons's incredible life story, beginning with his early years in Alabama and Ohio, marked by family trauma and loss, through his studies as a music major at Oberlin College, where Clemmons began to investigate and embrace his homosexuality, to a chance encounter with Fred Rogers that changed the whole course of both men's lives, leading to a deep, spiritual friendship and mentorship spanning nearly forty years.

From New York to Russia, Berlin to California, Grammy Award-winner Clemmons has performed for audiences around the world and remains a beloved figure. Evocative and intimate, and buoyed by its author's own vivacious, inimitable energy, Officer Clemmons chronicles a historical and enlightening life and career of a man who has brought joy to millions of adults and children, across generations and borders.

Product Details

$26.00  $23.92
Publish Date
May 05, 2020
6.2 X 1.2 X 9.2 inches | 1.25 pounds

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About the Author

Dr. François S. Clemmons received a Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin College, and a Master of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon University. He also received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Middlebury College. In 1973, he won a Grammy Award for a recording of Porgy and Bess; in 1986, he founded and directed the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble; and from 1997 until his retirement in 2013, Clemmons was the Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir at Middlebury College in Vermont, where he currently resides.


Praise for Officer Clemmons

Library Journal, A 2020 Title to Watch
USA Today, 1 of 5 Books Not to Miss
Chicago Sun-Times, 1 of 7 Must-Read New Books

"It's important to acknowledge heroes who build bridges between all of us. Officer Clemmons offers readers the unique opportunity to understand how one man's life can have an unexpected, positive impact on millions of people. By sharing his lived truth, his artistic journey, and his friendship with Fred Rogers, Dr. Clemmons has written a memoir from a place of love and faith, in both God and in the power of music, as a gift to the world." --Common, Grammy Award-, Academy Award-, and Golden Globe-winning musician, actor, activist, and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Let Love Have the Last Word

"Full of resonant moments and artistic insights . . . Clemmons' memoir is often disarming in its intimacy and honesty. He vividly recalls his struggle with his homosexuality and his surviving of frequent racism--in some of the book's most affecting and powerful moments--as well as his noteworthy career ascent in musical performance . . . In the book he doesn't ask you to be his neighbor, but rather just to hear his story: one of a man of profound strength and talent who stood up, sang out, and, after great struggle, was heard." --Nicholas Cannarioto, NPR

"A poignant memoir of the actor and musician's life, Officer Clemmons is one of the year's must-read books." --K.W. Colyard, Bustle

"[Clemmons] writes in beautiful spare prose about a deeply traumatic upbringing experiencing domestic violence and racism that almost held him back from pursuing the study of music. He describes his struggle with coming out as homosexual, as well as what it meant to have a deep friendship with Fred Rogers." --HuffPost

"Francois S. Clemmons radiates infectious optimism, fortitude and grace throughout Officer Clemmons: A Memoir . . . Mr. Clemmons digs well below superficial characterizations to share stories of moving onward and upward from the often-troubling circumstances of his life . . . touching . . . His hard-won positivity shines throughout this inspiring, open-hearted story." --John Young, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Honest, engaging . . . The book is filled with warmth and love--for Rogers, music, his friends, colleagues, family and children. Yet, Clemmons doesn't sugar-coat the difficulties he's endured or the hard truths he's learned . . . If you're looking for hope, inspiration and grit, Officer Clemmons: A Memoir is the book for you." --Kathi Wolfe, Washington Blade

"Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, tells of his life as a gay African-American in the postwar era, in this uplifting memoir . . . Clemmons's thoroughly delightful, inspiring story will speak particularly to artists in marginalized communities." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A memoir of friendship and resilience, mentorship and song . . . Officer Clemmons is a story of strength and perseverance, of individuality and friendship." --Amazon Book Review, The Best Biographies and Memoirs of the Month

"Clemmons bares his soul in this book, sharing everything from traumatic experiences growing up to the racism he has encountered and his journey to embrace his sexuality . . . Because of his personal relationship with Fred Rogers, Dr. Clemmons is able to provide a unique, never-before-seen perspective of the beloved childrens' show host. Fans of Mister Rogers and memoirs alike will not want to miss this one!" --Beth Mowbray, The Nerd Daily

"François Clemmons played Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers (making him the first African American with a recurring role on a children's program), which would be reason enough for me to want to read his memoir. But Clemmons's life beyond his work on the show, and his friendship with Fred Rogers (who, unfortunately, advised him to marry a woman rather than accept that he was gay) was fascinating, as well." --Jessie Gaynor, Literary Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"François Clemmons has lived a fulfilling life with rich experiences, and Officer Clemmons is his way of intimately sharing his story with the world." --Bleu Magazine

"Officer Clemmons offers us a look into the life of a man who may have once been overlooked and is only now being appreciated for his unique and rippling influence on our society through friendship and a ferocious commitment to individuality." --Ashley C. Ford, author of Somebody's Daughter

"Clemmons in this book allows us such an act of tenderness and affection. Officer Clemmons is a window into a time that is rapidly being forgotten, a history of blackness and queerness, and perhaps most especially of beauty. But more than that, it traces and retraces with devoted clarity the path that leads from the horrifying pains of racism, violence, and homophobia to the blessings of love, spirit, friendship, and God. Dr. François S. Clemmons understands that his life, despite everything, is a gift. And here he shares that gift with us in a way that is both clear-eyed and softhearted. The effect for me is healing and wondrous." --Carvell Wallace, contributor to The New York Times Magazine, author of The Sixth Man, and host of the Finding Fred podcast