Luther Clifford (SEAMHEADS.COM)

Luther Clifford

This article was written by Rich Bogovich

Luther Clifford (SEAMHEADS.COM)Luther Clifford grew up in an atypical town for the Depression-era United States, a suburban melting pot largely free from racial tensions. What’s more, he could draw inspiration from noteworthy ancestors dating back to the early days of the Civil War. His baseball career may not have been as remarkable, but there’s little reason to think that he was anything other than comfortable with that.

Luther Franklin Clifford Jr. was born on January 16, 1924, in Clairton, Pennsylvania, less than 15 miles south of Pittsburgh and the site of a steel mill.1 He was the only child of Luther Clifford Sr. and his wife, Effie, based on the family’s 1930 census listing (and with no evidence to the contrary). Young Luther was listed as Franklin in that census and was commonly called by his middle name at least through high school.2

Luther Sr. worked at the mill’s coke works. He was born on January 20, 1888, in Piedmont, West Virginia, and had five younger siblings, according to both the 1900 and 1910 censuses.3 His parents were the former Elizabeth Ann Stephens and pioneering schoolteacher James Henson Clifford. James’s older half-brother, John Robert Clifford, was the first African-American lawyer in West Virginia and a crusading newspaper publisher.4

In the 1910 census Luther Sr. was still living in West Virginia though newly married, to the former Isabella (or simply Isabell) Elizabeth Daugherty.5 In 1911 Luther’s brother Clyde was living within 20 miles of Clairton, in Irwin, where he ultimately lived for decades. A man named Luther Clifford was also in Irwin that year, as mentioned by a newspaper columnist reporting from there: “The fast colored team of Irwin defeated the McKeesport Colored Giants for the second time in a closely contested game by the score of 14 to 12,” Gertrude Simpson wrote for the Pittsburgh Courier. “The Irwin battery featured Clifford having 17 strike outs.” She also mentioned an H.L. Johnson of the Irwin team, and it was unlikely mere coincidence that later in her column she named Luther Clifford and Harrison Johnson among five local men with “class” who seemed “to be the only real sports of the burg.”6 Of course, it’s not a given that Luther was the pitcher named Clifford; it could have been Clyde, for one.

According to Luther Sr.’s draft registration card in 1917, he was married (though it doesn’t say to whom), a child was part of the household, and he was working for a steel works. The 1930 census indicates that he and Effie were married around 1922. Also living in Clairton by 1930 were Luther’s brother and sister-in-law, James Ward and Maude (sometimes Maud) Clifford, plus their children.

Effie Clifford was born on October 10, 1888, in Shirleysburg, Pennsylvania, after sister Pearl (who died of tuberculosis in 1919) and brother Ira. Effie and Ira remained close, and in the 1930 census she and the two Luthers were next door to Ira’s household. Pearl, Ira, and Effie were the children of the former Lucy Bulger and Franklin Barnes. Her paternal grandfather, James Barnes, was a private in the Union Army during the Civil War.7

A resident four years younger than Luther provided insights about the Clairton of Luther Jr.’s youth many years later. “It was an interesting community,” said Walter Cooper, in part because “there was not a rigid pattern of housing discrimination.”

“The nonwhite population was approximately (10 to 12) percent,” noted Cooper, who became the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Rochester in 1956. “We had neighbors from Italy, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Czechoslovakia. So as a youngster, I lived in a multi-ethnic, multicultural community. People being different – it never bothered me. We had harmonious relations with most of our neighbors. … During the Depression years, we were poor, but on occasions we fed the poor across racial lines.”8

One exception to such harmony was during the 1939-40 school year, while Luther was a high-school junior. “Colored pupils of the eighth grade of the junior high school returned from school … and told their parents that they were being separated from white pupils of the same class and placed in a room to themselves,” reported the Pittsburgh Courier. “Several honor students were included among those so treated.” After initial inertia, leaders undid that segregation. Though “Clairton colored citizens witnessed three days of the fanciest ‘buck-passing’ on record,” the paper wryly wrote, after many complaints “school board members went into action quickly, with the result that colored students were back in their regular rooms” that same week.9

Overall, Dr. Cooper said, “in the school itself, there was no pattern of discrimination and I think, by and large, the students got along very well with one another.”10

Luther Jr. was a three-sport athlete at the high school, and its 1941 yearbook noted that he was one of the senior lettermen in basketball. “Lumbering Franklin Clifford was considered the best offensive center in the section,” the yearbook asserted. He was also a force to be reckoned with on the gridiron. “Big ‘Ham’ Clifford smiles through his classes. But on the football field, his slow moving ways cease,” the yearbook enthused. “There he turns up the field in mad charges. He made the varsity in his senior year.” Track and field was Luther’s third sport, particularly discus and shot put.11

Luther’s name popped up on area sports pages during high school. In one preview of a football game during his senior year he was listed in Clairton’s starting lineup as a 185-pound fullback.12 He closed out his high-school athletic career with a few shot-put and discus victories in April and May of 1941. He even set a new local record by heaving a shot 47 feet, 10½ inches.13

Happy high-school experiences were offset in Luther Jr.’s family. For one, his maternal grandmother, Lucy, died at the start of his sophomore year. She had been living with them at the time of her death.14 His other grandmother had died in 1911, and his grandfathers also had died long before he was born; Franklin Barnes died months before Effie’s first birthday, and James Henson Clifford died in 1901, around the time Luther Sr. was 13 years old.

By the time Luther Jr. was halfway through high school his father was also out of the picture: Luther Sr. had left the household by the time of the 1940 census. At that point Effie and her son were living with her brother Ira. In fact, in the 1940 census there is a Luther Clifford who boarded with a family named Myrick in Washington, D.C. His age, race, and birthplace on that page, combined with the World War II draft registration card in his name filed during 1942, are all consistent with his being Luther Sr.15 The census page also indicates that he had lived in Washington for five years, which would have been before his son started attending Clairton High. In any case, during the summer of 1942 Effie formally filed for divorce from Luther Sr.16 That was about two months after her brother Ira died.

Luther Franklin Clifford Jr. entered the military on October 30, 1943, at Fort Meade, Maryland, and served in the Army Air Corps until March 1, 1946. At some point he married the former Sarah Thomas, and when he submitted a veterans benefits application in March of 1950 he listed a son, Ira Franklin Clifford, apparently 21 months old – which would put his birth in mid-1948.17

That was the year when Luther joined the Homestead Grays – and he was no longer called Franklin by sportswriters. He wasn’t with the Grays at the beginning of their season, based on box scores and game previews. One of the first newspaper articles about the Grays that mentioned him said that he had previously played for Clairton’s CIO (labor union) team.18 In mid-May, one area newspaper reported on the start of the baseball season for Clairton’s team in the United Steel Workers of America League: “It seemed in the seventh inning that Monessen was going to go run crazy but Bill Clifford, a catcher by profession, went to the mound and limited the outburst to one run.” That paper also included a box score, in which Clairton’s lineup had surnames matching those of Luther’s teammates in his high-school yearbook and basketball box scores back then.19 Thus, “Bill Clifford” might very well have been Luther.

With the Grays on June 11, Clifford made an immediate impact against the New York Black Yankees in a game played in New Castle, Pennsylvania, 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. He wasn’t the starting catcher, but it appears that he had already driven in at least one run with a hit when he came up with the score tied 8-8. “The fans got a thrill in the eighth inning as Clifford, a new catcher with the Grays making his first appearance … blasted a tremendous homer over the left center field fence,” reported the local paper. The Grays held on to win, 10-8, before 2,400 fans.20

Clifford didn’t see much action in those early weeks, but when the Chicago Defender published Negro National League statistics in early July, he was listed as having 4 hits in 8 at-bats. Meanwhile, the Grays led the standings with a record of 22-11.21

A noteworthy exhibition game early in Clifford’s career was played on July 3 in Charleroi, about 20 miles south of Clairton, between the Grays and Pie Traynor’s Charleroi All-Stars. Harold “Pie” Traynor had played his entire major-league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, managed them from 1934 to ’39, and had been voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame earlier in 1948. A preview of the game noted that both Bobby Gaston and Clifford were competing as backups at catcher to Euthumn Napier.22 Still, the box score for the game shows that Clifford started and batted seventh. He went 1-for-5, drove in two runs and, at least as importantly, caught a shutout as the Grays won, 9-0. It was reportedly their 59th win in 61 exhibition games that season.23

In the Negro National League pennant race, Clifford contributed again toward the end of August. The Grays regained first place by edging the Philadelphia Stars, 4-3, thanks to homers by Luke Easter, Buck Leonard, and Clifford.24 Clifford also got into at least two NNL championship games against the Baltimore Elite Giants in mid-September, and reportedly even pitched in the first match.25 There is an absence of evidence of Clifford’s having played in that final Negro World Series victory over the Birmingham Black Barons, but his first season still had its moments.

After the NNL disbanded at the end of November, there was some supposition that the Grays wouldn’t continue. Meanwhile, the Negro American League imposed order on the competition to sign NNL players. In mid-February of 1949 the NAL unveiled a “distribution plan for players who formerly played with the now defunct Homestead Grays, Newark Eagles and New York Yankees.” Luther Clifford was assigned to the Louisville (previously Cleveland) Buckeyes along with Grays pitchers Tom Parker and John Wright.26 That ended up having no bearing on Clifford because the Grays continued to play as a member of the short-lived Negro American Association and then for one last season as a barnstorming team. It would be understandable if veteran players on the Grays found all this unnerving. Alas, Luther Clifford already had enough turmoil in his life at that point. Before the end of March 1949, he filed for divorce from Sarah. It was finalized three years later.27

In mid-May of 1949, one newspaper’s preview of an early game for the Grays reported Clifford’s weight as 230 pounds.28 That was 45 more than when he finished playing high-school football. More significantly, two other papers later in the month said that with the release of Euthumn Napier, Clifford was to be the starting catcher for the Grays. Napier had gone to a minor league in Canada to continue his career.29

One season after facing a team led by a Pittsburgh Pirates legend, Clifford caught for the Grays in another such game. This time the Grays were facing the legendary Honus Wagner. On May 18 the Grays beat the Honus Wagner Stars in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, just southwest of Pittsburgh.30

Other highlights for the season included a performance that may have caused some déjà vu. Against the Black Yankees in New Castle, the foe and site of his memorable debut about a year earlier, Clifford homered in the sixth inning with Wilmer Fields on base to provide the game’s decisive blow.31 Another noteworthy game for Clifford took place about a month later, before 2,300 fans in Lima, Ohio, against the House of David team from Benton Harbor, Michigan. In beating that memorable team 15-5, Clifford led the way with four hits, including a triple and double.32

Not quite qualifying as a highlight was the Washington Post’s preview of a mid-August game against the Indianapolis Clowns in which there may have been an attempt to cement a nickname for Clifford: While mentioning him in the same breath as Buck Leonard, and Red Fields, the unnamed sportswriter referred to him as Baby instead of Luther.33

The biggest news of Clifford’s season occurred in September, when he joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League. In July the Monarchs sold outfielder Bob Thurman and catcher Earl Taborn to the Newark farm team of the New York Yankees, and Luther Clifford was eventually brought in to help fill Taborn’s shoes. He joined the Monarchs during a pennant race and faced at least two NAL opponents multiple times.

During the first week of September Clifford got into at least three games of a series against the New York Cubans. In one of those games he batted fifth and went 2-for-4.34 He also played in games that month against the Indianapolis Clowns. He received some recognition for a key contribution in one of them, when he batted after Elston Howard (later the first African-American to play for the Yankees), who had walked, and drove him in with a long triple.35 The Monarchs qualified for the NAL playoffs, but team owner Tom Baird quickly announced that the team wouldn’t participate, saying that it was too depleted after the departure of Thurman, Taborn, and others. “The failure of the league to insist on Kansas City living up to its obligation is a definite violation of the baseball law,” wrote Wendell Smith, the sports editor of the Pittsburgh Courier. “But from all indications, nothing will be done about it.”36 Smith was correct, and the Chicago American Giants replaced the Monarchs as the Western team in the championship series against the Baltimore Elite Giants.

One source of stability for Luther Clifford throughout the 1940s may have been where he called home. His address was 146 Lincoln Way in Clairton on the application for veterans benefits that he filed in March of 1950. Though he left the section about his father blank, he listed his mother at the same address. She in turn had given their address as almost the same, 149 Lincoln Way, when she signed her mother’s death certificate back in 1938.

Since his roots were in the greater Pittsburgh area, Clifford went from the Monarchs back to the Homestead Grays for 1950. The Negro American Association was no more, so the Grays were solely a barnstorming team. A preview of a mid-April game against the New York Black Yankees in North Carolina may have been the first time that the nickname used frequently for Clifford later in the decade appeared in print: Shanty.37 The box score for a game during the first week of May showed that he played right field (going 2-for-4), and a newspaper article a few days later named him as one of the team’s four outfielders.38 That was presumably because catcher Euthumn Napier had also rejoined the Grays, though Clifford did see some action behind the plate in May and following months.39

On July 1 Clifford was listed as the center fielder in a box score of an exhibition game in which he faced legendary pitcher Satchel Paige. The Grays played the Raleigh Clippers in Charleston, West Virginia, and Paige pitched three innings. Clifford went 0-for-5, so he didn’t get a hit off Paige.40 A few days later a newspaper reported that the Grays had already compiled a record of 64 wins, 8 losses, and a tie, and that 7 of those victories were over the Paige All-Stars, for which Satchel typically pitched at least three innings.41 Thus, Clifford may have batted against Paige in more than one game.

Late in July the Grays made a trip to Canada that would change Clifford’s life forever. The big story from the game itself, which the Grays won 18-8, was that Josh Gibson Jr. was hit in the head by a pitched ball and suffered what was called “a slight concussion.” The game was a benefit for the Shriners’ Crippled Children’s Hospital Fund, so goodwill between the teams was apparently assumed and reports of the incident didn’t suggest any intent by the pitcher. The significance for Clifford was that the game was against the Brantford Red Sox,42 a team he soon joined, in a city where he lived most of the rest of his life.

On August 3, 1950, Clifford was reportedly the pitcher for the Grays against the New York Black Yankees at Charleston, West Virginia. The Grays won handily, 11-4.43 Clifford’s name showed up a few more times in the following weeks, but his appearances dwindled by September. About three weeks into September it was reported that former Grays pitcher Dan Bankhead, who still had a few games left with the Brooklyn Dodgers, would tour with the Grays after the major leagues’ regular season ended. Games were scheduled at least three weeks into October, but newspaper coverage was minimal.44 The Grays were disbanded in 1951. By then, ownership of the club had passed from Cum Posey’s widow, Ethel, and Rufus Jackson to Posey’s older brother Seward, called See. It was See who reportedly persuaded Ontario’s Brantford club to sign Clifford as well as Wilmer Fields.45 Many years later, one sportswriter asserted that Clifford and Fields were paid $1,000 per month.46

Brantford, where hockey legend Wayne Gretzky was born a decade later, belonged to a semipro league in which players were compensated very well. Clifford seemed to fit right in, as indicated by a special community event in mid-June, a baseball school for younger local players. “Three members of the Brantford Red Sox, top team in the Senior Intercounty loop, were on hand to act as instructors,” wrote an area newspaper. “Catcher Luther ‘Shanty’ Clifford, southpaw pitcher Alf Gavey and centre fielder Jerry Wilson put the boys through their paces in a three-hour session, which should benefit the players considerably.”47 The Red Sox ultimately won the Intercounty League pennant that season, though the London Majors prevailed in the playoffs.

However comfortable Clifford may have been in Brantford, for 1952 the 28-year-old accepted an opportunity enjoyed by many American players in that era: to play ball in the Caribbean. In his case, it was the Dominican Republic. The season began there on April 26, and the league consisted of four teams.48 On April 1 Clifford departed from New York for San Juan, Puerto Rico, along with Gread McKinnis, Robert Griffith, and Otto Miller.49 McKinnis and Griffith had been well-known pitchers in the Negro Leagues. The other passenger was likely the infielder for the Indianapolis Clowns in the summer of 1951, Otto “Buddy” Miller, who reportedly had played for the New York Black Yankees before the Clowns.50 Clifford, Griffith, and McKinnis were all on the Estrellas Orientales, and Clifford even served as manager at one point.51 Presumably the highlight for Clifford was a game in which he hit three home runs. A photo of him shaking the hand of a coach while circling the bases after one of those blows was published in 2004.52

By mid-July Clifford traveled back to Canada, though this time he went to Brandon, Manitoba, where a team was partway into the third season of the independent Manitoba-Dakota (ManDak) League. The player-manager for the Brandon Greys was Willie Wells, whose long career in the Negro Leagues led to his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997. Upon reporting, the local paper noted that Clifford weighed 246 pounds and stood 6-feet-2-inches tall.53

At the beginning of the next month Clifford certainly made an impression among local sports fans. He jump-started his team’s scoring in one game with a second-inning triple, but it was his defense that was praised in the newspaper. He picked runners off second base twice and added a difficult catch of a pop foul near the screen. Within the week Clifford had a two-homer game for the Greys, and those swats helped him reach 11 RBIs in his first 11 games.54

Howard “Krug” Crawford of the Brandon Daily Sun speculated that early on the Greys were looking to Clifford to generate such power often. Clifford sensed that, and challenged that thinking. “If it’s home runs you want, I’m not your man,” he volunteered. “Down where I [have] just come from (Santo Domingo) they expected me to hit a homer every time up. That’s why I left.” He had been back in Clairton for only a few hours when he received an urgent call from Brandon. “My mother had my shirts out on the line, and so I had to come fast (he flew) with only what I got.” Crawford called Clifford “one of the best assets the Greys have right now.” He noted that Clifford had “been hitting the fences with some of his blows,” but he praised Clifford’s defense in particular: “He’s got a great throwing arm and he gets the ball away easily. And he’s one of the best catchers of looping foul balls we’ve seen around here for some time.”55 Though the Greys may have been looking to Clifford for big blasts, he ended up topping their hitters with a .330 batting average.56

During the first few months of 1953 there were conflicting accounts of the next chapter in Clifford’s baseball career. In January the Brantford Red Sox were reportedly expecting Clifford to rejoin them. A report in Toronto’s Globe and Mail noted that he and Wilmer Fields had already been “the first African American battery” in the Intercounty League’s history, and in 1953 the Red Sox were anticipating the league’s biggest battery: 250-pound Clifford and 6-foot-9 John Alexander Gee, who pitched six years for the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Giants from 1939 to 1946.57 Conversely, in early April the Brandon Daily Sun twice reported that Clifford was among a few players expected to join Willie Wells in Chicago for a bus trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for some preseason exhibition games before returning to Brandon in early May.58

In actuality, Clifford’s spring training took place in Waycross, Georgia, at the minor-league camp of the Braves as that franchise was transitioning from Boston to Milwaukee. In late March the Pittsburgh Courier reported this fact, though in the context of Clifford being under contract with the Indianapolis Clowns – making him a teammate of Toni Stone, the first woman signed to a Negro American League contract. The Courier’s preview of Indy’s season didn’t explain why Clifford was working out in Waycross instead of prepping with other members of the Clowns.59

In any case, on March 21 the Waycross Journal-Herald listed lineups for the first intrasquad games at the camp and Clifford was named as an alternate catcher.60 A week later the paper listed players for a game that night between Class-B Evansville and Class-A Jacksonville. Clifford was one of the two catchers for the former, while Henry Aaron was listed as a second baseman for the latter.61 Conditions in the South were rough for African-American players at the time; however, though Aaron experienced racism during his initial car ride to the camp, his treatment on the grounds was relatively enlightened for the time.62

In short order Aaron’s team left the camp to head south to Jacksonville. Luther Clifford remained in Waycross, and one week into April he was the starting catcher for Evansville in a loss to the Class-B Eau Claire Bears. In at least two subsequent games he played for the Bears and in a contest against Evansville Clifford had two hits, but in mid-April it was reported that he had been cut by Eau Claire.63 By mid-May he rejoined the Brantford Red Sox, as noted in the Brandon Daily Sun, with a hint of disappointment.64 The remainder of his baseball career was spent in Ontario.

In 1953 another Negro Leagues player began an even stronger association with the Brantford Red Sox than Clifford’s: Jimmy “Seabiscuit” Wilkes. His nickname implied that he was as speedy as the famous racehorse of that name. “If you think Jimmy’s fast now, you should have seen him in his prime,” Clifford told a Brantford Expositor sportswriter.65 Despite such imported talent, Brantford didn’t win the regular season or the playoffs the next few seasons.

Highlights for Clifford in the mid-1950s included a game against the London Majors in June of 1954 when he homered twice in the eighth inning. A few weeks later he squared off against the team that signed him in early 1953, the Indianapolis Clowns, before a full ballpark of more than 6,000 fans.66 He won the league’s batting title in 1956 with a .377 average. That achievement was undercut by the death of his mother on August 7. His return to Clairton for the funeral was noted in the Pittsburgh Courier, which described him as appearing “physically fit.”67

For 1957 the Brantford and London clubs left the Intercounty League to join the new Great Lakes-Niagara District League. Clifford was the player-manager for the Red Sox.68 Even in a new league the Red Sox were unable to find late- or postseason success. The new league folded after that single year and Brantford rejoined the Intercounty League, but Clifford signed with the Galt Terriers instead, for whom he was an all-star first baseman in 1958. He also came very close to winning the playoffs for Galt at home. The Terriers led the St. Thomas Elgins three games to two and the sixth game was knotted at 3-3 after seven innings. Clifford hit a 370-foot homer in the eighth, after which his team needed to shut down the Elgins for just three more outs. Instead, Galt gave up seven runs and lost the seventh game as well.69

Shanty Clifford overcame what a Toronto newspaper called “a minor back operation” to sign with Galt again for 1959.70 That year he was finally on a pennant winner again, though the Terriers lost in the playoffs to Brantford.

Relatively little was reported about Luther Clifford’s life after that, though in 1962, at least, one Pennsylvania newspaper noted that he visited his son Ira that summer in Mount Pleasant, about 30 miles southeast of Clairton.71 His memory has been kept alive by some baseball enthusiasts, such as lifelong Brantford resident Jim Huff, who reminisced about Wilkes and Clifford on a local company’s website. “Shanty Clifford worked with my dad at the school board – those guys were legends,” he wrote.72 Huff elaborated further:

Shanty worked with my Dad at the Brant County Board of Education as a school janitor in the 1960s and 70s and that is when I first met him, although I had seen him play many times. My Dad introduced me to him but of course, I was already familiar with Shanty. … We did talk all baseball (what else would you want to talk to Shanty about anyway) and he did say working for the Board was the first full time job he ever had, because all he did was travel to play ball. The way he talked I think he was very happy with his occupation as a professional ball player. I will always remember shaking his hand, he had the hands of a catcher, big strong hands and “crooked fingers”—he looked like a ballplayer top to bottom.73

At the age of 55, Luther Clifford had the pleasure of marrying a local widow in Brantford, Lorraine Saunders, on September 28, 1979. Attendants were one of her daughters, Diane Davis, and a Paul Christopher.74 Alas, Clifford’s final years were marked by a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.75 It presumably had taken hold no later than 1987, because an author writing about him for a book interviewed just Lorraine instead.76

Luther Franklin Clifford died on May 4, 1990, at the age of 66. His obituary in the Brantford Expositor listed Lorraine and her five adult children among his loved ones, but also his son, Ira, and wife, Carla, in Pittsburgh and his aunt Maude back in Clairton. Thus, despite the decades he spent in Canada, he obviously still had enough contact with kin back in Pennsylvania for Lorraine to have noted that at the time of his passing. He was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Brantford. The obituary, which called him Shanty, mentioned that he “was supervisor at Brant County Board of Education for many years [and] an avid golfer at Arrowdale Golf Course.” As might be expected, it also noted his time with the Homestead Grays in the Negro National League, the Brantford Red Sox, and the Galt Terriers.77


This biography appears in “Bittersweet Goodbye: The Black Barons, the Grays, and the 1948 Negro League World Series” (SABR, 2017), edited by Frederick C. Bush and Bill Nowlin.



1 According to Veteran Compensation Application Files, WWII, 1950-1966, for Pennsylvania, accessible via The steel mill was originally Carnegie Steel Co.

2 Though he may have typically been called by his middle name, in 1927 he might have been the Luther Clifford awarded first prize among 2- and 3-year-olds during Negro Health Week at the YWCA in nearby McKeesport. See “McKeesport, PA,” Pittsburgh Courier, April 16, 1927: 9.

3 According to his federal Draft, Enlistment and Service registration cards for both World Wars, accessible via

4 According to Rosemary Clifford McDaniel, “The Early History of the Clifford Family of Maryland, Virginia/West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio:  Descendants of Isaac Clifford, The Patriarch,” 2004, available at In 1898 John Robert Clifford won a landmark civil-rights case before the West Virginia Supreme Court for another teacher in Tucker County, in Williams v. Board of Education.  In 2009 John Robert Clifford was among a dozen early civil-rights figures honored by a series of stamps by the US Postal Service.

5 Their marriage record is available at

6 Gertrude Simpson, “Irwin, Pa.,” Pittsburgh Courier; June 24, 1911: 2. For an early mention of a Clyde Clifford of Irwin, see Nellie V. Hackney, “Greensburg,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 9, 1911: 2.

7 These details about Effie and her family are from federal censuses and documents accessible via, including her entry in the Social Security Applications and Claims Index, several death certificates, and her grandfather’s Record of Burial of Veteran on file with Pennsylvania’s Department of Military Affairs, which lists him as having served in Company B, “8th Regt. P.V.”

8 See Elaine Spaull, “The Magnificent Life of Dr. Walter Cooper,” Post (Rochester, New York), March/April 2014, and Dr. Cooper’s overlapping memories in the oral history transcript from 2008 at

9  “School Segregation in Clairton Quickly Nipped,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 23, 1939: 2.

10 See Note 8. Dr. Cooper made his own contribution to undoing discrimination at the high school just a few years after Luther graduated: “In 1943, when I was a sophomore at Clairton High School in Pennsylvania, the football squad was 30 percent African-American. So my sister Thelma and a few of the other African-American girls wanted to be cheerleaders. The unspoken rule in the physical education department was that black girls could not be cheerleaders. The football squad had won its first four games. Prior to the fifth game against our rival, I gathered the black football players and said, ‘We’re going to boycott practice in protest against this unwritten rule.’ I talked it over with my mother, and she said it was the right thing to do. She said, ‘I’ll make some cookies and such for the athletes as they gather.’ So in school on Monday, we boycotted practice. On Tuesday, you could hear the football coach bellowing up and down the corridor: ‘What do they want? Give it to them!’ We never met with the director of the physical ed department, but four black girls—my sister Thelma Cooper, and Ruby Sears, Hortense Gordon and Jane Moore—all ended up cheerleaders.”

11 Clairtonian Yearbook, Clairton High School (Clairton, Pennsylvania), 1941, quoting from pages 57 and 54, respectively.

12 “Changed ’Cat Team Opens Away Season With Clairton,” Monongahela (Pennsylvania) Daily Republican, September 27, 1940: 2.

13 “Mounties’ Track Team Tops Clairton,” Pittsburgh Press, April 17, 1941: 16; “Uniontown High Wins Track Meet,” Pittsburgh Press, May 3, 1941: 8. See also Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 9, 1941: 18.

14 According to the death certificate for Lucy Barnes, accessible via, on which her home address was 149 Lincoln Way in Clairton at the time of her passing, on August 25, 1938.  The certificate was signed by Mrs. Effie Clifford, whose address was the same. 

15 See Note 3.

16 “Divorce Libels Filed,” Pittsburgh Press, August 6, 1942: 20. 

17 See Pennsylvania’s Veteran Compensation Application Files for WWII, 1950-1966, accessible via  The military branch wasn’t identified but his obituary in the Brantford Expositor – see Note 74 – specified the Army Air Corps.

18 “Grays Break Even in Two With Cubans,” New York Amsterdam News, July 3, 1948: 27. 

19 “Monessen Triumphs in Opening USW Tilt,” Monessen (Pennsylvania) Daily Independent, May 17, 1948: 5.

20 “2,400 Fans See Grays Nip Yanks,” New Castle (Pennsylvania) News, June 12, 1948: 13. 

21 Chicago Defender, July 3, 1948: 10. 

22  “Grays, All-Stars Await Big Clash,” Charleroi (Pennsylvania) Mail, July 2, 1948: 7.

23 “Homestead Grays Top Stars, 9-0” Charleroi Mail, July 6, 1948: 7.

24 “Grays Regain League Lead, Nip Philly Stars, 4 to 3,” New Castle News, August 28, 1948: 12. 

25 “Grays Win Over Baltimore, 6-0,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 15, 1948: 20.  See also Sam Lacy, “Grays Take First 2 in NNL Playoff Series,” Baltimore Afro-American, September 18, 1948: 14.

26 “AL Teams Draft Stars of Clubs Calling It Quits,” Pittsburgh Courier, February 19, 1949: 11.

27 “Divorce Proceedings,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 29, 1949: 10; “Divorce Proceedings,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 7, 1952: 11. 

28 “Grays Open Local Baseball Season Sunday,” Indianapolis Recorder, May 14, 1949: 11.

29 “Grays Strengthen Club With 3 New Players,” Baltimore Afro-American, May 21, 1949: section 2, page 13; “Grays Sign 3 New Players, Meet Richmond Sunday,” Washington Post, May 28, 1949: 10. 

30 “Grays Defeat Stars,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 19, 1949, 19.

31 “Homestead Grays Defeat Yankees,” New Castle News, June 29, 1949: 18.

32 “2,300 See Grays Beat House of David,” Lima News (Ohio), July 26, 1949: 12.

33 “Clowns Meet Grays Tonight,” Washington Post, August 12, 1949: 27.

34 Clifford was catcher in one box score of a doubleheader covered by the Kansas City Times, September 6, 1949: 20. His 2-for-4 game was documented by the box score accompanying “4 Double Plays Feature Negro Big Leaguer Game,” Chillicothe (Missouri) Constitution Tribune, September 9, 1949: 5. See also the Kansas City Star, September 8, 1949.

35 For examples, see one box score of a doubleheader covered by the Kansas City Times, September 12, 1949: 14.  Clifford’s triple behind Elston Howard was reported in “Baseball Season Ends,” Kansas City (Kansas) Plain Dealer, September 23, 1949: 4. See also Kansas City Star, September 18, 1949.

36 Wendell Smith, “Kansas City Quits Play-Off Series,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 17, 1949: 22.

37 “N.Y. Black Yankees to Meet Homestead Grays Thursday, April 13,” Carolina Times (Durham, North Carolina), April 8, 1950: 4.

38 “Bushwicks Split in Official Opener,” Brooklyn Eagle, May 8, 1950: 13; Art Carter, “From the Bench,” Baltimore Afro-American, May 13, 1950: 28. 

39  For examples, see the box score accompanying “Hustlers Lose to Homestead Grays, 7 to 3,” Frederick (Maryland) News, May 23, 1950: 13, and the one in the New Castle News, June 22, 1950: 28.

40 “Clippers Lose Doubleheader Over Week-End,” Beckley (West Virginia) Post-Herald, July 3, 1950: 6. 

41 “Merchants Meet Homestead Grays in Exhibition Here Monday Night,” Greenville (Pennsylvania) Record-Argus, July 8, 1950: 5. 

42 “Gibson Jr. Gets Beaned,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 5, 1950: 24. Accounts of the game in two Pittsburgh papers are vague about the date, but the beaning was also mentioned four days earlier, putting it in July. See Dan McGibbeny, “Josh Gibson Jr. Follows Footsteps of Famous Father as Grays’ Slugger,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 1, 1950: 12.

43 “17-Hit Gray Attack Buries Black Yanks by 11-4 in Slugfest,” Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette, August 4, 1950: 13. 

44 “Bankhead to Tour With Homestead Grays,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 23, 1950: 8; for examples of specific games scheduled, see “Bushwick Games Rained Out,” New York Times, October 9, 1950: 7, and “Homestead Grays Play Tuesday in North Gulfport,” Biloxi (Mississippi) Daily Herald, October 23, 1950: 10.

45 Ted Beare, “A Man for All Seasons,” Brantford (Ontario) Expositor, August 12, 2008. Available at 

46 George Hayes, “Just a Shell of What It Was,” Woodstock (Ontario) Daily Sentinel-Review, July 10, 1981: 5. 

47 “Baseball School Is Big Success,” Simcoe (Ontario) Reformer, June 18, 1951: 6. 

48 “Dominican Season Opens,” The Sporting News, May 7, 1952: 39. 

49 U.S., Departing Passenger and Crew Lists, 1914-1965, accessible via 

50 “Ball Belters to Display Wares in Big Negro Tilt at Stadium,” Sikeston (Missouri) Daily Standard, September 5, 1951: 8. 

51 Bienvenido Rojas, “1952, Refuerzos Ganaron los Lideratos Ofensivos,” Diario Libre (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), September 1, 2015: 35. 

52 William Humber, A Sporting Chance: Achievements of African-Canadian Athletes (Toronto: Natural Heritage Books, 2004), 57. 

53 “Greys Suffer Eighth Straight Home Loss,” Brandon (Manitoba) Daily Sun, July 15, 1952: 2. 

54 “Greys Hit Peak Form to Win Third Straight and Move to Within Striking Distance,” Brandon Daily Sun, August 2, 1952: 2; “8-Run Rally Gives Cards 12-11 Victory,” Winnipeg (Manitoba) Free Press, August 6, 1952: 21.  “Clarence King in Second Place in Mandak Batting Race,” Brandon Daily Sun, August 8, 1952: 2. 

55 H.L. Crawford, “Here and There in Sports,” Brandon Daily Sun, August 14, 1952: 2.

56 “Joe Mitchell and Skeeter Watkins Topped the League in Offensive, Defensive Play,” Brandon Daily Sun, September 18, 1952: 2. 

57 “Biggest Battery in IC Planned by Brant Hose,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), January 27, 1953: 18.  

58 “Bus Leaves Thursday to Pick up Greys,” Brandon Daily Sun, April 1, 1953: 6; “Greys Assemble Today in Baton Rouge Camp,” Brandon Daily Sun, April 6, 1953: 6. 

59 “Two Stars to Rejoin Indianapolis,” Pittsburgh Courier, March 28, 1953: 16.

60 “Braves’ Initial Intra-Squad Contests Set This Week End,” Waycross (Georgia) Journal-Herald, March 21, 1953: 2. 

61 “Jacksonville and Evansville Play Exhibition Here Tonight,” Waycross Journal-Herald, March 28, 1953: 2. On the same page two days later the paper reported that Evansville beat Jacksonville, 5-2, but little detail was provided and there wasn’t even a line score.

62 Daniel Papillon and Bill Young, “The Red Clay of Waycross: Minor-League Spring Training in Georgia With the Milwaukee Braves,” The National Pastime: Baseball in the Peach State, 2010: 123. This SABR journal article is available at

63 “Braves Top Evansville Second Time, 5-4,” Hagerstown (Maryland) Morning Herald, April 9, 1953: 23. “Eau Claire Bears Beat Quebec, 7-6,” Eau Claire (Wisconsin) Leader, April 12, 1953: 10. “Bears Top Evansville 12-10; Carr Seeks Two,” Eau Claire Daily Telegram, April 14, 1953: 12. “Quebec Wins 8-3 as Bears Falter,” Eau Claire Leader, April 16, 1953: 16.

64 Jim Reid, “Sport Scripts,” Brandon Daily Sun, May 16, 1953: 6.

65 For the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum profile of Wilkes, see For an overview of his life in Brantford, including the quote by Clifford, see Ted Beare, “Red Sox Star Loved City,” Brantford Expositor, August 12, 2008. 

66 “Clifford’s Bat Booms as Sox Rout London for Fisher’s 4th Win,” Toronto Daily Star, June 10, 1954: 28; “Clowns, Kaycees Play in Chi, N.Y.,” New York Age, July 3, 1954: 21.

67 “Things to Talk About,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 18, 1956: A9.

68 For example, see “Hamilton Finally Slips to Third, London Wins,” Toronto Daily Star, July 22, 1957: 14. 

69 “St. Thomas and Galt in Sawoff Tuesday,” Toronto Daily Star, September 22, 1958: 21. 

70 “Slugger Clifford Back With Galt,” Toronto Daily Star, May 7, 1959: 45.  This article confirmed that he had been an Intercounty League all-star. 

71 “Personal Mention,” Daily Courier (Connellsville, Pennsylvania), August 15, 1962: 13.

72 See

73 Email exchange between James B. Huff and author, October 17, 2016.

74 See the short marital announcement, “302 Marriages,” Brantford Expositor, October 11, 1979: 37.

75See his obituary, “Clifford, Luther Franklin (Shanty),” Brantford Expositor, May 4, 1990: D1.

76 Humber, 138.

77 See Note 74.

Full Name

Luther Franklin Clifford


January 16, 1924 at Piedmont, WV (US)


May 4, 1990 at Brantford, ON (CAN)

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