Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, Clifton joined the Air Force in 1964 and served in the 89th Presidential Wing. He was later inducted in the Enlisted Airman Hall of Fame. He came to Tulsa for college, obtaining a Health Care Management degree from Tulsa Junior College, now Tulsa Community College. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and completed graduate work in banking.
“Without my associate degree from TJC, I would not have been able to land my first major job in the field of retirement and health facilities,” he said. While working with the inventor of the Stairmaster Exercise System, Clifton’s entrepreneurial skills capitalized on a growing health consciousness. His success in business allowed him to pursue writing. “Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored” was released in 1989 to critical acclaim and the follow-up “Last Train North” earned many awards, including a Pulitzer Prize nomination. He would go on to write 14 more books.
His writing has taken him globally. “My most memorable experience was the opportunity to address members of the United States Supreme Court and to respond to a request to provide an autographed copy of my very first book (“Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored”) to Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison,” he said.
In 1999, Clifton was recognized as a Best of TCC Distinguished Alumni. He has served on the boards of several community businesses and nonprofit organizations, among them Tulsa Regional Medical Center, OETA, The Arthritis Foundation and Goodwill Industries.
Clifton currently serves as President and CEO of The Freemount Corporation, an international training and consulting company with a focus on building community in the workplace. He also serves as President and CEO of Roots Java Coffee, the only certified African American wholly owned national coffee supply company in America.