In honor of Black History Month we’re spotlighting Clayton Pitre, ‘68, a member of the African American Alumni community and our 2015 Community Service Alumni Award winner.
Clayton was born in 1924 in Opelousas Louisiana, one of seven children .He attended Catholic school until the 9th grade, when he had to put his education on hold to work on his father’s farm. At the age of nineteen Clayton was drafted into the military, becoming one of the first African Americans to join the Marines. Clayton was trained at Montford Point, a segregated base in North Carolina.
In 1945 Clayton’s unit was deployed to Okinawa, Japan, where Clayton, an infantryman in the 1st Marine Ammunition Company, was responsible for sending ammunition to the front lines. In January 1946 Clayton was honorably discharged with the rank of corporal.
In 2012 Clayton and 400 fellow black marines from Montford Point were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by President Obama at a White House ceremony.
After his service in World War II, Clayton joined his brother in Seattle where he met his wife, Gloria Tony. While in Seattle he completed his education, first achieving his GED at Broadway Edison, a high school for veterans without a high school diploma, then, with support from the G.I. Bill, he worked his way through college as a postal clerk, husband and father of three. In 1968 Clayton graduated from Seattle University with an accounting degree.
Clayton would go on to work in real estate for fourteen years, eventually becoming Chief Housing Developer for the Central Area Motivation Project (CAMP), where he helped to fund and build low-income housing across the city.
When CAMP lost its funding in 1973, Clayton joined the Veteran Administration office, where he worked for eleven years until his retirement in 1984. Though retired, Clayton remained committed to serving his community. He formed the African American Dollars for Scholars program and chaired the program for 17 years.
"I've been at Garfield and Roosevelt and seen kids with 3.8 grade-point averages walk away with all the scholarships and the ones with 3.0 feel no need to try. Our mission is to encourage them to go beyond high school and come back to the community as productive citizens.” Clayton said in a Seattle Times article about the program.
Clayton’s community outreach doesn’t end there. He served as the Vice President of the Central Area Senior Center, has been a member of the Knights of Columbus for over 60 years and continues to act as a mentor for the fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi .
Clayton’s Catholic faith is an important part of his life. He’s been a member of St. Mary’s parish for 52 years, where he created a child care center and was the President of its board. He considers the creation of their child care center one of his proudest achievements.
In paying tribute to Clayton, Susan Clifford Jamroski , Major Gift Officer for the Virginia Mason Foundation, said, “He has mentored hundreds of people as a true servant does. Clayton rarely looks back. He is always future forward; the next person who needs help, the next opportunity, the next friend. As a Catholic born in the south and of very humble origins and now in his ninth decade, he continues to press full steam ahead.”
The Seattle University community is honored to be able to call him one of our own.
We hope you’ll join us to celebrate Clayton and our other Alumni Award winners on April 18.
30th Annual Alumni Awards Celebration
Saturday, April 18
Fairmont Olympic Hotel