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Get to know Bobby Clinkscales

By Rich Otter

Thursday, May 16, 11:33 AM EST

Calvin (Bobby) Woodson Clinkscales was born February 4, 1935, the 10th of 12 children.

Historically, the Clinkscales name goes back to slavery times when ancestors were called the Clinkscales men, or the Clinkscales boys, to identify the owner’s workers.

Bobby's father owned his own mules and was a sharecropper but worked as a carpenter’s helper while his sons farmed the land. As soon as he was able, Clinkscales was working on the farm with his brothers.

He became the first member of his family to graduate from high school. He couldn’t participate in sports until he was in the 11th grade and was making enough money to pay his way in the family. When he made the basketball team, he was able to get tennis shoes and eat a free lunch. He made the football, basketball and baseball teams.

After high school he got a job stocking at Kress’ 5 & 10 and then with the Ziegler and Taylor real estate firm doing janitorial work at the Wil-Mary Apartments. He went into the military ahead of being drafted and started playing baseball during basic training. He ended up playing baseball, football and basketball with service teams, including in Italy and France and even played basketball on a French team with the approval of his commander.

After service, he played baseball in the Western Carolina league. He was the first black player in the league. He received an offer to go on tour with Satchel Page but he had married and his wife was in a family way. He turned it down.

When Mayor Pete Glenn was in office, the city was looking for black police officers. Calvin (Bobby) Clinkscales became the first black police officer to be hired by the city since Reconstruction. He was joined by Randolph Morris. When interviewed he was asked if he was allowed to arrest white people. He told them he would not have taken the job if he couldn’t arrest anyone who had broken the law.

They worked Church Street establishments and when that would quiet down they patrolled throughout the city. He said a fight would break out every 15 minutes on Church Street but they would try to reason with the combatants and send them home rather than arrest them.

He left the police department when he had an opportunity to be an instructor at the new Wamsutta Plant. He was the first black hired as an instructor.

A city administration in the late 1960s had tried to hire black officers without success. There had been no black officers in the department since Clinkscales and Randolph Morris left. He was finally convinced to return. Ernest Scotland joined him.

The periods when he served on the police department were times of transition. Both the black and white communities had to be met with diplomacy and strength. He bridged the gap by simply doing what was right — calmly, equally and fairly.

He was appointed the city’s representative to the Appalachian Council of Governments. The organization approved applications for government funds. He continued representing the City of Anderson with the Council of Governments even after he retired as a police officer.

Clinkscales learned of a possible sales position at Sears Roebuck. He became the only black sales representative on the Sears floor at that time.

After retiring from Sears, Boston Red Sox star Jim Ed Rice told him: “Bobby, you are getting old, you should be playing golf.”

Clinkscales said: “Me? I’m not going to hit that little ball.” Well, he did – very well, in the same way Bobby Clinkscales did everything else.


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