Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Natalie Moore speech in Chicago

Below is the text of the memorial speech that Natalie Moore gave yesterday at South Shore Cultural Center in honor of her late uncle, Dr. Clinton Bristow Jr. who was president of Alcorn State University and passed away unexpectedly at age 57:

Uncle Clinton is the first person whom I realized had a Ph.D. As a child, I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it sounded important and really cool. But it didn’t take long to learn that he was an advocate of education in his personal and professional life. We were all able to absorb that energy.

Uncle Clinton was very supportive of his nieces and nephews. My brother Joey was able to call Alcorn home, even though he never attended the university. He worked there some summers and to this day everyone from the cooks to the police knows who he is. When we were kids, Joey was obsessed with channeling Popeye’s persona, muscles and all, so Uncle Clinton would buy him cans of spinach. Joey actually ate them. My sister Megan just received her master’s in public administration last month, and per usual, Uncle Clinton sent her a congratulatory note – and a few transitional dollars, of course.

He wrote me an undergrad recommendation letter to attend Northwestern University, his alma mater. He used the word unequivocally in the letter. I had no idea what the word meant and had to look it up. It was an awesome letter, but I decided to attend Howard University instead. When I was applying to Northwestern for grad school, I was too embarrassed to ask him for another recommendation, but he quickly allayed my worries. And I got in.

You could count on him to take you to dinner if he happened to be in town in the city you lived in. After turning 21, you could order a martini, too. He had a sincere interest in your endeavors. It left you feeling good that he thought you were someone important. He also had a knack for remembering the most minute details about people.

I last saw Uncle Clinton at the N’Digo gala in June. He asked me if I had ever heard of an erotic writer named Zane. I laughed, and said, oh, Uncle Clinton, I don’t know if you want to read her. He said many Alcorn students were fans and the bookstore sold copies, and naturally, as an avid reader, he wanted to investigate the hype. We jokingly concluded that he better not buy erotic titles on the university’s dime.

I know that everyone in this room can agree that Uncle Clinton had a way of making each of you feel special. And I’m hard pressed to think of anyone more committed to higher education.

In Mississippi, Maya implored the Alcorn student body to continue her father’s legacy. In Chicago, we can do the same by mentoring a youth, writing a recommendation letter or merely giving a child encouraging words. I can’t think of a better way to remember Uncle Clinton.

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