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Legacy: Dr. Jesse Foster McClure Jr.

Dr. Jesse Foster McClure Jr., who among many varied accomplishments was a freelance contributor for the Tri-State Defender, died Feb. 21. He was 65. Dr. Jesse Foster McClure Jr., who among many varied accomplishments was a freelance contributor for the Tri-State Defender, died Feb. 21. He was 65.

 Dr. Jesse Foster McClure Jr.

In a reflection included in Mr. McClure’s obituary program, Clay Dix shared this description of the multi-faceted man he knew:

“Man of vision/ community builder/ change agent/ an ‘insider’ for the ‘outsiders’ in society/ humorist / friend/ encourager/ role model/ never flustered/ family man/ Christian servant who ‘walked the talk’/ delightfully funny/ a man of faith/ innovator/ peacemaker/ nurturer/ mentor/ eye for talent and potential/ advocate.”

Born in Louisville, Ky., in 1945 to Jesse and Ethel McClure, Dr. McClure early on became associated with Virginia Avenue Baptist Church, where his mother was a Sunday School teacher. After graduating with honors from Male High School, he attended the University of Michigan on an athletic scholarship and had the grades to qualify for academic admission. At Michigan, he earned his bachelors and masters degrees.

Mr. McClure graduated in 1969, and moved to Sacramento, accepting the position of Director of Black Studies at California State University-Sacramento. In December of that year he married Alnita Trawick, the girl he met while in graduate school.

Together, they decided Mr. McClure would enroll in a Ph.D. program. The choice was Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. He received his degree in two years.

In 1972, Dr. McClure was appointed Dean of the School of Social Work at California State University-Sacramento. He was 26, one of the youngest deans in the country and the first African American to be a dean at CSU.

Soon afterward, came his son Jesse III, and later, a daughter, Tasha.

As dean, Dr. McClure made sure the School of Social Work reflected the cultural, gender and ethnic diversity of the community. He started a prototype senior day care center to reduce social isolation and premature institutionalization. He started prison programs and was on the board of the United Christian Centers whose mission was to provide human services to children and adults who experienced social and economic challenges.

In 1983, Dr. McClure became Dean of Social Work at Arizona State University and continued his purpose. Seven years later, he moved to Memphis to become the first African American to serve as Vice Chancellor of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. In 1997, he became Provost at LeMoyne-Owen College.

Along the way, Dr. McClure garnered numerous awards for his advocacy in improving the quality of life for all citizens.

His community service activities included serving on the board of governors of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis; chairing the board of directors of the United Way of the Mid South; chairing a gubernatorial commission developing a statewide children’s mental health system; chairing the board of directors of the Memphis Redbirds Triple A Baseball Team Foundation, and designing and implementing Tennessee’s “welfare to work” initiative.

Dr. McClure served as a member of Humanities Tennessee, Goals for Memphis Inc., the Leadership Academy, the University of Tennessee Leadership Development Institute, the American Heart Association, the Urban League, United Housing Inc., and was a member of the Leadership Memphis class of 1994.

Dr. McClure and his wife were married for 41 years. He also leaves his children, Jesse Foster McClure III (Katie) of Fort Worth, Texas, and Tasha McClure of Coronado, Calif., a granddaughter, Marilyn Grace McClure, and numerous extended family members and friends.

The memorial service celebrating Dr. McClure’s life was held at Hope Presbyterian Church, with the family requesting that donations go to Wings Cancer Foundation and the Memphis Urban Debate League. J.O. Patterson Mortuary had charge.

Legacy 2011:

TSD is telling the stories of everyday warriors, who leave behind gripping legacies as they mentor youth, make the streets safer, aim for excellence at work and give back to their churches and community.

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