Officer Clemmons
Details the incredible life story of François Clemmons, beginning with his early years in Alabama and Ohio, marked by family trauma and loss, through his studies as a music major at Oberlin College, where Clemmons began to investigate and embrace his homosexuality, to a chance encounter with Fred Rogers which changed the whole course of both men’s lives, leading to a deep, spiritual friendship and mentorship spanning nearly forty years.When he earned the role as “Officer Clemmons” on the award-winning television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Clemmons made history as the first African American actor to have a recurring role on a children’s program. A new, wide world opened for Francois — but one which also required him to make painful personal choices, and sacrifices.From New York to the Soviet Union, Berlin to California, Clemmons has performed for audiences around the world, and remains a beloved figure. Evocative and intimate, and buoyed by its author’s own vivacious, inimitable energy, Officer Clemmons chronicles a historical and enlightening life and career of a man who has brought joy to millions of adults and children, across generations and borders.

Officer Clemmons Details

TitleOfficer Clemmons
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 5th, 2020
PublisherCatapult
ISBN-139781948226707
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Biography, LGBT

Officer Clemmons Review

  • *TUDOR^QUEEN*
    January 1, 1970
    As a little girl growing up in the sixties, my favorite show was Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Recently, I saw that a documentary was airing on HBO Family all about Mister Rogers. It was entitled, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?". Well, I watched it in rapt attention and had the best cry I've had in a long time. I gifted my older brother a DVD of this program, and he watched it immediately. He told me it was a good thing he was alone when he watched it, because he bawled his eyes out. It was so very no As a little girl growing up in the sixties, my favorite show was Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Recently, I saw that a documentary was airing on HBO Family all about Mister Rogers. It was entitled, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?". Well, I watched it in rapt attention and had the best cry I've had in a long time. I gifted my older brother a DVD of this program, and he watched it immediately. He told me it was a good thing he was alone when he watched it, because he bawled his eyes out. It was so very nostalgic and incredibly touching. One of the narrators in this documentary was Dr. Francois Clemmons, the gentleman who played "Officer Clemmons" for many years on the show. Although I had been a faithful watcher of the show growing up, I only had a vague memory of this cast member. Perhaps he wasn't on the show as much as some of the other characters, because of his main career as a tenor vocalist. However, I must say that I loved his contributions to this documentary. He was very forthright and emotional about the beautiful, meaningful relationship he had with Fred Rogers. I really liked Francois, and I wanted to hear more.The book cover consists of a photo of Francois in character as Officer Clemmons along with Fred Rogers in a scene from Mister Rogers Neighborhood. In fact, he talks about this particular scene in the documentary. They are sitting together with their pant legs rolled up, their feet submerged together in a little pool. I admit, I was really gunning for reading about his experiences with Mister Rogers, but that part of the book didn't commence until the 60% mark. You see, this is the story of Dr. Francois Clemmons' entire life, not just his experiences on Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Francois had a tragic and stressful upbringing marked by a very disfunctional and often violent family. In addition to those life challenges, he was a black American and gay. Francois recounts multiple incidents of racist behavior towards him, and also his long and complicated journey coming to terms with his sexuality. Life was certainly not easy for him, but he was blessed with an amazing voice and with friends that took him in and kept him safe. He wound up clinching a scholarship to Oberlin college to advance his voice studies. Then he met Joanne Rogers (wife of Fred Rogers) while singing in a church. This eventually led to Francois singing on Mister Rogers Neighborhood and playing the role of police Officer Clemmons. He accepted that role with much trepidation, since as a black man he witnessed and knew of unpleasant experiences with law enforcement. Fred Rogers had a huge impact on Francois, something you would probably hear from a lot of people who were close to him. Francois was lucky enough to have met Martin Luther King while in college, but he had just been assassinated. There were riots in Pittsburgh where Fred Rogers lived and filmed the show. Fred took Francois in for safety during the riots and lovingly embraced the sobbing Francois. Over the years they worked together, Fred made it clear that he would serve as Francois' father, mentor and friend. He was always there for Francois with love, support and friendship. There was one time that Fred had to have a really serious talk with Francois when he heard that he had been whooping it up at a nearby gay bar. Unfortunately, that behavior wasn't accepted during that era and in order to stay on the children's show Francois would have to keep that part of his life undercover. In fact, several people had suggested he marry a childhood girl friend he had taken to the prom, and he did just that. Of course, the marriage was a disaster. I loved hearing about Francois' reaction when he first walked onto the Mister Rogers Neighborhood set. It really made him feel good inside. He talked about the various characters such as King Friday, Henrietta Pussycat, X the Owl and Lady Aberlin, who he thought was probably the prettiest girl he'd ever seen (I thought so too back then). This was a remarkable story of a very talented man who triumphed over adversity with his own inner strength and a little help from his friends. Thank you to the publisher Catapult who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley.
    more
  • Nenia ⚔️ Queen of Villainy ⚔️ Campbell
    January 1, 1970
    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || PinterestI grew up with Mr. Rogers' neighborhood and really loved the show. It always felt much more intimate than other children's programs because of the way Mr. Rogers would talk to the camera (and therefore, the child watching on the other side), and how he would go on field trips to places in that overlap between the world of the child and the adult. One episode that stuck with me all these years later was about a trip to see how and where c Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || PinterestI grew up with Mr. Rogers' neighborhood and really loved the show. It always felt much more intimate than other children's programs because of the way Mr. Rogers would talk to the camera (and therefore, the child watching on the other side), and how he would go on field trips to places in that overlap between the world of the child and the adult. One episode that stuck with me all these years later was about a trip to see how and where crayons are made. Officer Clemmons was a recurring character on the show who I think I only vaguely remember, as he retired in 1993, and I probably would have only seen him on reruns of older episodes.Despite the title, the focus of OFFICER CLEMMONS is not primarily about his role on the TV show, which doesn't really come into effect until the latter half of the book. This is François S. Clemmons's story about how he grew to love musical performing, what it was like to grow up in the times directly following post-segregation and have family members who remembered the times of slavery, and also about what it was like to be gay in a time where that wasn't widely accepted. Clemmons actually married to hide his sexuality while meeting with men on the side, and even though he felt guilt about using his wife that way, it was the only way that he could be free to be who he was.I liked this memoir. I feel like it was brutally honest and touched upon a lot of really tough subjects in a matter-of-fact way. It was really interesting to see this complex history behind the character of a beloved kids' television show and really edifying to see how the adults we know and loved as children can have a secret life that they are never allowed to reveal. My favorite portion of the book was definitely about his role on the television program and all his treasured memories about Mr. Rogers. It's cool to know that he was every bit as kind and compassionate in real life as he was on the television, and his unequivocal support for Clemmons, including defending him to a racist orchestra, was truly incredible. We need more people like that, who use their clout to speak out against injustice.OFFICER CLEMMONS is a good book, and I do recommend it-- especially if you are old enough to remember him on the original episodes. It's a great memoir about a career in retrospect, while also talking about matters of sexuality and race. I won't be surprised to see this topping a lot of "best memoirs of summer" lists when it comes out in May.Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 3 stars
    more
  • Gail C.
    January 1, 1970
    Opening Dr. Francois Clemmons book, OFFICER CLEMMONS, is like slicing warm butter. With the first sentence you are already into the essence of the book, and it is so easy to just sit and read and before you know it you’ve read twenty pages, then fifty, and so on until you make yourself put it down for a bit. There is a wonderful conversational style to the book that is like sitting in a room with Dr. Clemmons, listening to him tell you the story of his life.There is information in the book about Opening Dr. Francois Clemmons book, OFFICER CLEMMONS, is like slicing warm butter. With the first sentence you are already into the essence of the book, and it is so easy to just sit and read and before you know it you’ve read twenty pages, then fifty, and so on until you make yourself put it down for a bit. There is a wonderful conversational style to the book that is like sitting in a room with Dr. Clemmons, listening to him tell you the story of his life.There is information in the book about his time on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and about his relationship with Fred Rogers, but that isn’t the focus of the entire book. It opens with the story of Clemmons early years, growing up under the influence of his great Uncle. he grew up poor, the son of a sharecropper, but alway feeling loved and protected by his uncle and his grandmother. That is, until floods caused his family to move and he eventually wound up in Philadelphia.His life, once he moves with his family, is filled with difficulty. There is abuse on the part of his step-father, rejection on the part of his mother because of his sexual orientation, and descrimination from the school system that wants to shuffle him toward a vocational technical school to learn a trade rather than to a 4 year college to study voice, even though his vocal talent is obvious.Along the way he is fortunate enough to meet several different people who help smooth out some of the rough spots so he can continue his pursuit of a career in music. There are also people who easily accept his homosexuality as well, which gives him the protection he needs to live his life in the way he chooses. This acceptance continues to Fred Rogers. The biggest obstacle he encounters is the realization that, while Mr. Rogers accepts him, homosexuality does not mesh with children’s television at the time and he is going to have to choose between living openly and proudly as a gay man.The entire story is told with a refreshing naivete which reflects the person he appears to be. He accepts people at face value, accepting their good wishes and offerings of help when they come and he is puzzled and often hurt by people who don’t offer him the same type of acceptance. If you Google images of Dr. Clemmons, many of the photos shown reveal this openness and joy, even as he moved into his more advanced years.Reading this book will fill you with a variety of emotions from joy and gentleness that is reflected in his relationship with people who are dear to him to anger and frustration at people who want to funnel him into a path that is not one for which he is well suited, simply because of his color. There is more information here that reflects the positive nature of people who came into contact with Dr. Clemmons and who offered him help, or mentorship, or protection throughout his life, and that makes it an uplifting book to read. My thanks to Catapult Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an advance digital reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • The Nerd Daily
    January 1, 1970
    Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Beth MowbrayIf you are looking for a heartwarming new read, Dr. François Clemmons delivers with his beautifully rendered debut memoir, Officer Clemmons. The man behind the groundbreaking character on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood has led an adventurous life, full of ups and downs, struggles and successes. And he certainly never could have imagined how meeting Fred Rogers would influence and change his life, both personally and professionally.In th Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Beth MowbrayIf you are looking for a heartwarming new read, Dr. François Clemmons delivers with his beautifully rendered debut memoir, Officer Clemmons. The man behind the groundbreaking character on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood has led an adventurous life, full of ups and downs, struggles and successes. And he certainly never could have imagined how meeting Fred Rogers would influence and change his life, both personally and professionally.In this memoir, Dr. Clemmons intimately shares the immense role Fred Rogers played in his world — not just as a mentor, but also as a father figure who showed him the power of unconditional love, support, and acceptance in ways he never experienced with his own family. Yet this relationship was not without its struggles. At Roger’s insistence, Dr. Clemmons was compelled to hide who he truly was from the public in order to prevent possible repercussions for the show. He was also forced to confront the complicated relationship between police officers and the black community as he took on a role that Rogers intended to be a “helper,” when the reality he had experienced in his own life ran contrary to this.The real heart and soul of this book, however, is that Dr. Clemmons tells his entire life story, starting with family history that even precedes his birth. While the parts that delve into his very personal relationship with Fred Rogers are remarkable, the reading experience is enriched by the context of Dr. Clemmons’ life as a whole. In fact, the reader is over 150 pages into the book before Dr. Clemmons even meets Fred Rogers! Yet everything leading up to this chance encounter is just as interesting and important as the events that follow. Dr. Clemmons shares his bond with his Granddaddy Saul as a young child, a relationship which introduced him to the magic of storytelling and music. He speaks to the powerful influence of women in his formative years. He also discusses how he leaned on music to cope with the conflict in his home and immersed himself in books to escape the difficulties of the world around him.Dr. Clemmons also relays many passions outside of Mister Rogers Neighborhood which the reader may not be familiar with. He discusses his experience as a touring opera singer, the original career choice for which he was specially trained. He reflects on his time as the founder and director of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble and he shares stories about his years serving as a choral director and the Alexander Twilight Artist-In Residence at Middlebury College.In short, Dr. Clemmons bares his soul in this book, sharing everything from traumatic experiences growing up to the racism he has encountered and his journey to embrace his sexuality. He shares painfully difficult experiences with discrimination which led him to hide his true essence in his earlier years, to feel as though he were an outsider. He discusses how he found solace in faith despite the conflicts between what the church told him was acceptable and who he knew he was inside. And throughout it all he has remained a shining light, a beautiful soul, showing “grit” as he likes to say.Because of his personal relationship with Fred Rogers, Dr. Clemmons is able to provide a unique, never-before-seen perspective of the beloved childrens’ show host. Fans of Mister Rogers and memoirs alike will not want to miss this one!
    more
  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    François Clemmons, born during the Jim Crow era, had a grandmother who remembered the days of slavery, at least the times when white men "worrying" black women was a fact of life. Even though his family moved to Ohio in search of a more stable existence, the attitudes in Youngstown were not much better than deep south, especially if he ventured outside zones of safety. Blessed with a God-given singing voice, François determined early on that that was where his destiny lay. Despite being best kno François Clemmons, born during the Jim Crow era, had a grandmother who remembered the days of slavery, at least the times when white men "worrying" black women was a fact of life. Even though his family moved to Ohio in search of a more stable existence, the attitudes in Youngstown were not much better than deep south, especially if he ventured outside zones of safety. Blessed with a God-given singing voice, François determined early on that that was where his destiny lay. Despite being best known for his appearances in the Neighborhood of Fred Rogers, Dr. Clemmons has continued with an illustrious career and multiple degrees in his beloved field of music. But it is the character of Fred Rogers that gives him his strength and confidence, who encourages him to follow his dreams, a friendship and mentor-like relationship that spanned 30 years, that gives him his strength and confidence, and encourages him to follow his dreams. It was no accident that barriers were broken and the character of Officer Clemmons was created. Fred Rogers knew what he was doing. François is most generous with details of his life, his accomplishments. Those who remember him fondly from those decades as a visitor to Mr. Rogers' home, will have those feelings rekindled.
    more
  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!I have been, and always will be, a lover of fiction books. In the past, nonfiction books have been too full of the real world and lacking in good writing and storytelling. This memoir, while very clearly a nonfiction book, is not one of those. I was greatly surprised at how easily this book read and flowed, weaving together the author’s life into a story that is near impossible to put down. So what is this bo ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!I have been, and always will be, a lover of fiction books. In the past, nonfiction books have been too full of the real world and lacking in good writing and storytelling. This memoir, while very clearly a nonfiction book, is not one of those. I was greatly surprised at how easily this book read and flowed, weaving together the author’s life into a story that is near impossible to put down. So what is this book about?This memoir takes us on a journey through the life of François Clemmons, a renowned opera singer and beloved character on the Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood children’s program. Beginning in the backwoods of Mississippi, we follow François to Alabama, Ohio, and more, all the while getting to see the heartbreaking trials and amazing accomplishments that color Clemmons’ life. From racism to sexuality, spirituality, abuse, and loss, no topic is left untouched as we delve deep into the experiences that led Clemmons through such a successful career and to be the man that he is today. While many readers may pick up this book because of Clemmons’ close relationship with Fred Rogers and his role on the show, his life was amazingly interesting before Mr. Rogers even enters the tail. The story begins in the backwoods of Mississippi where Clemmons and his extended family lived, the men working as sharecroppers. From here, Clemmons tells us the tale of a family that sticks together and survives together, fleeing floods, battling abusive husbands, and finding new lives up north. Growing up as a black man in Jim Crow times, Clemmons gives a clear look at what racism looked like back then. Living the majority of his life in the north, he notes that he had things better than if his family had stayed in Mississippi or Alabama, yet each encounter with racism within this story hits hard each time. From getting turned away from clubs, being treated as less than a human being, and losing auditions for being black, Clemmons’s experiences are not easy to swallow, and the way that he writes about the emotional and mental upheaval that they cause is raw and thought-provoking. “I cried to be taken care of, to be understood, to be vulnerable, to be gay and black and weak and still be lovable.”To add to the deep emotions that he explores, Clemmons also dives deep into his journey with his sexuality and coming to terms with being gay. This exploration begins early in Clemmons’ life, and clashes quickly with his deep sense of spirituality and relationship with God. As he moves through his life, he takes baby steps out of the closet before getting thrown back in, showing that it was like to choose between being open about who you are and having a public life and career. The way that Clemmons takes us through these experiences and emotions is deeply personal and vulnerable as every feeling is on display, allowing the readers to feel alongside him even if they have never struggled in the same way. As we move later into his story, readers finally get to meet Fred Rogers, a quiet, humble man whose wife sings on the church choir with François. Throughout Clemmons’ life, he had many surrogate families that took him in, loved him, and supported him the way his real family could not, and eventually the Rogers become the third and final family to really take care of him with Fred being a true father figure. The way the Clemmons writes about the show, Fred, and his influence is so simple and inspiring. To him, Fred was a man who loved the way we all should love, and that love and kindness made all the difference in Clemmons’ life and millions of children’s lives as well. I loved every aspect of his book and simply with that there was more. Towards the end of the book, the events and descriptions become less chronological and more focused on a few events, which threw me off a bit. I wished to have seen more about the everyday events that pushed François through the beginnings of his career and more about the goings-on at the show. However, I can appreciate that once a certain point was reached, it was the big events that mattered and not the little ones in shaping him. Whether or not you were a fan of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, this book is absolutely worth picking up!
    more
  • Jan
    January 1, 1970
    This is a deeply affecting personal memoir by a person of astounding accomplishments and a deeply rooted negative sense of self worth. Life was nice until he was four, then it kept escalating in family violence and abuse until his mentors in high school helped him to escape and move to Oberlin college to major in fine arts. Prejudice and segregation were still present but often less overt with relationship to color in the 1960s Ohio but there was also his problem with religiosity to the non gend This is a deeply affecting personal memoir by a person of astounding accomplishments and a deeply rooted negative sense of self worth. Life was nice until he was four, then it kept escalating in family violence and abuse until his mentors in high school helped him to escape and move to Oberlin college to major in fine arts. Prejudice and segregation were still present but often less overt with relationship to color in the 1960s Ohio but there was also his problem with religiosity to the non gender conforming and the guilt that had been forced upon him. His burgeoning career as a professional tenor and the people who truly cared about him saved his sanity. To clue in on his tastes and abilities: gospel, Leontyne Price, Mahalia Jackson. Politically it was a time of turmoil and unease, but after attaining a BFA at Oberlin he earned full graduate fellowship to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh for the MFA with emphasis on opera. It was while doing a performance at a Presbyterian Church that he first met Fred Rogers and their friendship began. In his own quiet way Rogers implemented François' public exposure and also, in time, the concept of Officer Clemmons was developed and implemented. But it was in his personal and professional life that Rogers was most influential, and that was a very great thing. What a wonderful book! I requested and received a free ebook copy from Catapult, Counterpoint Press, and Soft Skull Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
    more
  • Deedi Brown (DeediReads)
    January 1, 1970
    All my reviews live at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/.TL;DR REVIEW:Officer Clemmons is a moving, quick-reading memoir that offers so much more than another perspective on Fred Rogers.For you if: You like memoirs in general, particularly those by queer people of color; you loved Mister Rogers.FULL REVIEW:Thank you so much to Catapult and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy; this book will be published on May 5, 2020.Officer Clemmons is a memoir by the man who played the character of t All my reviews live at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/.TL;DR REVIEW:Officer Clemmons is a moving, quick-reading memoir that offers so much more than another perspective on Fred Rogers.For you if: You like memoirs in general, particularly those by queer people of color; you loved Mister Rogers.FULL REVIEW:Thank you so much to Catapult and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy; this book will be published on May 5, 2020.Officer Clemmons is a memoir by the man who played the character of that name on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, François S. Clemmons. And what an incredible life to describe — François grew up Black and gay in a segregated America with a traumatic family life. He went on to receive undergraduate, graduate, and honorary doctorate degrees in music and became a successful vocalist, touring the country in operas, winning a grammy, and founding the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble before eventually settling down to teach.And so this book isn’t about Fred Rogers (although he plays a prominent role in the second half); it’s about François. Because, as François says in the book’s first few pages, we cannot understand the profound effect that Fred — professional mentor, dedicated father figure — had on François’s life without that other context first. In fact, I have only vague memories of watching the show, and I still loved this book.And François does the story justice. He writes well. The parts of this book that take place before he met Fred are just a resonant and interesting as the parts after. I was particularly drawn in when he talked about his lifelong struggle with his gender and sexuality. He gives his story space while also moving the book’s pace along nicely; it’s not a super long book. You should read this one; I think you’ll like it a lot.TRIGGER WARNINGS:Domestic abuse; Suicide; Racism and homophobia; Statutory rape (mentioned)
    more
  • Emily Ann ♡︎♡︎♡︎
    January 1, 1970
    Sharing my memoir disclaimer again: I will never rate a [auto]biography based on the person’s life. I rate it based off of the writing style, and this was just not it for me.
  • Kristian Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    I’m glad I read this and am grateful that I met him. ❤️
  • Amber
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC of this book from the publisher as an employee of Page 2 Books in Burien, WA."Officer Clemmons" offers a unique perspective on Mister Rogers that needs to be heard!
  • Autumn
    January 1, 1970
    What a life! Bravo to Francois Clemmons for generously sharing his vibrant, complicated journey. Recommended for music majors, Gen X, Oberlin and Middlebury alumni, and students of civil rights and LGBTQIA history.
  • Alyssa True
    January 1, 1970
    Got this an as ARC and wanted to finish it before it came out today.This book read incredibly fast, even for this slow reader. The language was quite accessible. Clemmons split the book into different periods of his life and much of it was before he met Mr. Rogers. While he discusses his time on the show, most of the book is spent on his four years at Oberlin College rather than the 25 years he spent on the show. That said, I wanted to hear his perspective and I got it. Clemmons vividly describe Got this an as ARC and wanted to finish it before it came out today.This book read incredibly fast, even for this slow reader. The language was quite accessible. Clemmons split the book into different periods of his life and much of it was before he met Mr. Rogers. While he discusses his time on the show, most of the book is spent on his four years at Oberlin College rather than the 25 years he spent on the show. That said, I wanted to hear his perspective and I got it. Clemmons vividly describes his emotions, even 60 years later. Unsurprisingly, Clemmons has incidents of racism to recount, but he is incredibly candid. The first part of the book is a series of gut-punches of racism, loss, and trauma.
    more
  • Bob Lingle
    January 1, 1970
    Officer Clemmons is not just another Mister Rogers story. It's a story of race, sexuality, overcoming the odds, and love. Clemmons' story will make you believe in the power of good despite all of the bad we face in this life.
  • Beth M.
    January 1, 1970
    If you are looking for a heartwarming memoir of a beautiful soul, you need to go pre-order this one!Officer Clemmons is the debut memoir from the man behind the well-known, groundbreaking character on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. What I loved so much about this book, though, is that Dr. Clemmons tells his whole life story, starting with family history even before he was born. While the parts that delve into his very personal relationship with Fred Rogers are remarkable, the reading experience is If you are looking for a heartwarming memoir of a beautiful soul, you need to go pre-order this one!Officer Clemmons is the debut memoir from the man behind the well-known, groundbreaking character on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. What I loved so much about this book, though, is that Dr. Clemmons tells his whole life story, starting with family history even before he was born. While the parts that delve into his very personal relationship with Fred Rogers are remarkable, the reading experience is enriched by the context of Dr. Clemmons’ life as a whole. He bares his soul, sharing everything from traumatic experiences growing up to the racism he has encountered and his journey to embrace his sexuality. And throughout it all he remains a shining light, showing “grit” as he says!If you are a fan of Mister Rogers and/or memoirs, you don’t want to miss this one! Many thanks to Catapult for gifting me this galley. Officer Clemmons will be released on May 5th!
    more
  • Nathan
    January 1, 1970
    While readers will understandably crack this book open for the Fred Rogers stories, this is unquestionably a powerful work that stands on its own aside from Dr. Clemmons' recurring role the TV show. The author recounts some truly heartbreaking moments and triumphant milestones, all the while remaining what I would categorize as blunt and honest. There's so much more to Francois than one could pick up on by seeing him perform, and he makes wondrous use of this medium to not only get his life's st While readers will understandably crack this book open for the Fred Rogers stories, this is unquestionably a powerful work that stands on its own aside from Dr. Clemmons' recurring role the TV show. The author recounts some truly heartbreaking moments and triumphant milestones, all the while remaining what I would categorize as blunt and honest. There's so much more to Francois than one could pick up on by seeing him perform, and he makes wondrous use of this medium to not only get his life's story out and into the world, but to serve as inspiration for people of all walks of life. While I think you might be best served by going into this book and not letting any reviews spoil the details of the author's life ahead of time, you're still in good shape if you're privy to certain sections. Clemmons has woven (with impressive prose, as he proves to be an effective storyteller) an unforgettable path toward success and, yeah, you should probably have some tissues nearby, especially toward the end of the book. Superb. Can't recommend it enough. Many thanks to NetGalley and Catapult for the advance read.
    more
  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    If, like me, you grew up with "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," you doubtless remember Officer Clemmons, the local police officer. One of the most powerful moments on the show involved Fred Rogers sharing his wading pool with Francois Clemmons during a time when black people were not allowed to share public swimming pools with white people.Anyway, Dr. Francois Clemmons has written a beautiful and poignant memoir about his career as an opera singer, his work on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" ... and If, like me, you grew up with "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," you doubtless remember Officer Clemmons, the local police officer. One of the most powerful moments on the show involved Fred Rogers sharing his wading pool with Francois Clemmons during a time when black people were not allowed to share public swimming pools with white people.Anyway, Dr. Francois Clemmons has written a beautiful and poignant memoir about his career as an opera singer, his work on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" ... and the challenges of growing up not only black, but gay. In a time of segregation and "the closet," he had a lot of challenges to face.Clemmons also talks about the various mentors who helped him along the way, including Rogers himself, and how they accepted him regardless of what the social climate was at the time. I found myself smiling, nodding, and yes, crying, at different times when I read this book.Clemmons was a Neighbor to all of us, and I was tremendously moved by his story. Highly recommended.
    more
  • Meghan
    January 1, 1970
    This book was received as an ARC from Catapult in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.I was a fan of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and remember the character of Officer Clemmons and how he and Fred just got along and were so happy with each other that it made the whole show come to life. I knew I had to jump at the chance to read this book because of all the memories that came to light from watching the show. It also was interesting to h This book was received as an ARC from Catapult in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.I was a fan of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and remember the character of Officer Clemmons and how he and Fred just got along and were so happy with each other that it made the whole show come to life. I knew I had to jump at the chance to read this book because of all the memories that came to light from watching the show. It also was interesting to hear the upbringing of Francois and learning about the road he got to meet Fred and how he not only landed the role in the show but how that sprung into a lifelong friendship and mentor-ship that will last him an entire lifetime. I know a lot of people will be on the lookout for this book once it is released and I can't wait to hear their reactions.We will consider adding this title to our Biography collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
    more
  • Annie
    January 1, 1970
    Originally published on my blog: Nonstop Reader. Officer Clemmons is a memoir by Francois Clemmons detailing his early life, education, and time as Officer Clemmons, the character he played on Mr. Rogers' Neigborhood on PBS. Released 5th May 2020 by Catapult Books, it's 288 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.I grew up near Pittsburgh, PA and though I was slightly too old to really be a part of Mr. Rogers' target audience (I was more a Sesame St. and Electric Co. kid), Originally published on my blog: Nonstop Reader. Officer Clemmons is a memoir by Francois Clemmons detailing his early life, education, and time as Officer Clemmons, the character he played on Mr. Rogers' Neigborhood on PBS. Released 5th May 2020 by Catapult Books, it's 288 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.I grew up near Pittsburgh, PA and though I was slightly too old to really be a part of Mr. Rogers' target audience (I was more a Sesame St. and Electric Co. kid), I always loved watching Mr. Rogers (since it was aired on our PBS station just before my shows). The genuine warmth and respect he showed to everyone made a deep impression on me, and he has been a role model to several generations of kids.I always enjoyed the different characters who appeared on his show and liked that there was a continuity and dependability to the show's format and actors. It's incredible to think about how long lived the characters and the actors who brought them to life were associated with the show and I've often thought about how the show and the people associated with it provided some much needed stability and positive reinforcement to a lot of vulnerable kids.Anyhow, this is a respectful, well written memoir mostly about Francois Clemmons' early life and upbringing, his education, and his years working with Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. There's a directness and honesty to his writing that is effective and moving. I found myself so touched and sad and angry at the casual violence and racism that were a part of his early life. He talks openly about his family history, the loss of family members to violence/murder, the casual systemic racism of the southern USA in the 1950s, and on top of all of that, his growing awareness of his sexual orientation in a society which was openly hostile to non-binary people. He made a lot of difficult decisions to sacrifice emotional parts of his life in order to work in children's programming and specifically with Fred Rogers.I did enjoy the book, and the behind-the-scenes reminiscences, despite much of it being sad and poignant. Four stars.Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
    more
  • Richard Propes
    January 1, 1970
    You can't look at the cover of Francois S. Clemmons's autobiographical "Officer Clemmons" without immediately recognizing the lifelong singer as one of the many beloved familiar faces from "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." Clemmons, after singing alongside Fred Rogers' wife Joanne in a church choir, would initially appear on the fledgling show as a singer before becoming the regular cast member of Officer Clemmons, a black police officer with a kindly demeanor whose presence on the show gave a gent You can't look at the cover of Francois S. Clemmons's autobiographical "Officer Clemmons" without immediately recognizing the lifelong singer as one of the many beloved familiar faces from "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." Clemmons, after singing alongside Fred Rogers' wife Joanne in a church choir, would initially appear on the fledgling show as a singer before becoming the regular cast member of Officer Clemmons, a black police officer with a kindly demeanor whose presence on the show gave a gentle nudge to a nation in the early days of race relations. "Officer Clemmons" is not just about Clemmons's time on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," though the book opens with a brief introduction dedicated to his nearly 40-year relationship with Rogers that he describes with great adoration and affection. The book's final chapter is also extensively devoted to his years appearing on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," from his unexpected relationship with the white Presbyterian minister turned children's television host who would become a father figure for Clemmons to the more controversial stories around the homosexuality that Clemmons would have to live discreetly for years both as a regular presence on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" and as a professional touring singer whose blackness was already one strike against him. However, at least 2/3 of "Officer Clemmons" is devoted to Clemmons himself from his upbringing in Birmingham, Alabama and Youngstown, Ohio where he became his church's choir director at age 10 and immersed himself in the spirituals of pre-Civil War America to his college years at the progressive Oberlin College where he would begin exploring the homosexuality that he'd sensed but largely stifled because it conflicted with his familial values and the conservative church in which he was raised. "Officer Clemmons" is surprisingly devoid of ego for a man who would, during the late 60's and 70's in America, obtain his Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin College, Master of Fine Arts from what would become Carnegie Mellon University, and an honorary Doctor of Arts from Vermont's Middlebury College. Clemmons won a Grammy Award for a recording of "Porgy and Bess" and in the late 80's became even more dedicated to preserving the American Negro Spiritual by founding the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble, an effort supported financially by his longtime mentor Fred Rogers. Clemmons has an engaging personality and an infectious spirit that radiates throughout "Officer Clemmons," though his ultra-casual writing style will be distracting for some and his openness regarding how homosexuality impacted his daily life may be met by resistance from some readers picking up "Officer Clemmons" and expecting a "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" type of reading experience. While Clemmons's long friendship with Fred Rogers provides much of the heart contained within "Officer Clemmons," the book itself is most effective as a culturally aware biography that powerfully, even achingly, displays the lengths to which one mad had to repress himself in order to live the life for which he was gifted and the life which he loved. From America's racial divisions that would influence Clemmons's childhood and career throughout much of his life to his inability to be out as a homosexual while nonetheless breaking ground as one of the first African-American regulars on children's television programming, Clemmons has lived both an inspirational and a heartbreaking life that would have broken many spirits but seems to have been channeled into his musical gifts and professional choices. "Officer Clemmons" is an incredibly valuable reading experience because Clemmons doesn't really flinch while sharing stories (though certain names are changed to respect confidentiality), still with surprising affection, in which he is being reminded by others around him that he is either not good enough or that he must keep parts of him hidden. Clemmons retired in 2013 after 13 years as the artist-in-residence at Middlebury College, though his positive influence remains and "Officer Clemmons" captures the entire journey of joys and sorrows with warmth, enthusiasm, innocence, and remarkable vulnerability. While not without its flaws from a literary standpoint, "Officer Clemmons" is an accessible view into one man's journey toward self-acceptance through the lens of an American culture that seemed to never quite offer the acceptance he so desperately craved. While the material in "Officer Clemmons" may prove a little daunting for some fans of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," the truth is the book beautifully reflects the spirit of Fred Rogers while also delving into the difficult subjects of racism and homophobia and self-identity. It's an entertaining read that will also quietly provoke thoughtful discussion and exchanges of ideas and experiences. One could easily say that Francois Clemmons's road to "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" was the road less traveled, a rocky journey filled with unpredictability and potholes galore but through it all his gentle spirit survives and you'll find yourself wanting to be his neighbor.
    more
  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    I grew up watching Officer Clemmons on reruns of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood so I was very much looking forward to reading this memoir. It was heartbreaking, harrowing, uplifting, and heartwarming. I was deeply moved by his upbringing in the Jim Crow South and equally prejudiced and segregated North. His life before Mister Rogers was especially characterized by his own ideals of self-worth as a Gay Black man and singer who was raised in a religious household with an abusive stepfather. I thoroug I grew up watching Officer Clemmons on reruns of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood so I was very much looking forward to reading this memoir. It was heartbreaking, harrowing, uplifting, and heartwarming. I was deeply moved by his upbringing in the Jim Crow South and equally prejudiced and segregated North. His life before Mister Rogers was especially characterized by his own ideals of self-worth as a Gay Black man and singer who was raised in a religious household with an abusive stepfather. I thoroughly enjoyed his description of his friendship and mentorship with Fred and how that shaped his evolving ideas of self-worth. While I felt there were moments where the story lagged, it was redeemed by superb writing and an overall beautiful story of love, loss, trauma, resilience, intimacy, and a friendship that continues to inspire generations. Bravo Dr. François Clemmons.
    more
  • Carrie
    January 1, 1970
    Can I tell you a secret? I hated Mr. Rogers neighborhood as a kid. I'm not sure why but I don't remember it from when I was very young more from say ages 8 and older. So when my kids were young, I quickly turned the channel after SEsame Street so they wouldn't watch it. It really wasn't until I was older and started watching the documentaries on Mr. Rogers that I came to appreciate just how special he really was. Officer Clemmons was one of Mr. Rogers' neighbors. But this book is more about Fran Can I tell you a secret? I hated Mr. Rogers neighborhood as a kid. I'm not sure why but I don't remember it from when I was very young more from say ages 8 and older. So when my kids were young, I quickly turned the channel after SEsame Street so they wouldn't watch it. It really wasn't until I was older and started watching the documentaries on Mr. Rogers that I came to appreciate just how special he really was. Officer Clemmons was one of Mr. Rogers' neighbors. But this book is more about Francois Clemmons and not just that part of his life which involved Fred. It is about the abuse he faced at home, the racism he enountered throughout his entire life and his self discovery as a gay man. I really did enjoy this book. I did listen to the audiobook and I found Mr. Clemmons narration style a tad annoying but that may be because I did not watch him on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. So 3.5 stars from me but since Goodreads won't give us half stars I'll round up.
    more
  • Denise Junker
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderful book. It told intimate stories and details without feeling scandalous or risque. Sharing the truth and pain of growing up in a vast intersectional existence was well done in a clear and honest fashion. Stories about Fred Rogers were also clear and honest; real emotions are shared. A very well-written memoir and, even though the impetus may be Fred Rogers, they feel like bonuses, insights into Mr. Rogers as a real person and all the work Mr. Rogers did.
    more
  • Sheryl
    January 1, 1970
    Incredible StorytellingSuch an interesting life. So well told. It is largely a tribute to Fred Rogers' redemptive force in his life, but also the power of music and finding a healing spirituality. I cried so much. Great, cleansing sobs. Highly recommended.
    more
  • Zoe
    January 1, 1970
    Why did I want to read this book? Basically I don't remember the episode or any that he was actually on... only saw them in context of review of Mr. Rodgers career and triumphs over topics. And it is always always so interesting to hear the background of someone that is now highlighted as such an important piece of PBS/Mr. Rodgers and television history in a way. As a former producer of content for a PBS station I do remember watching Mr. Rodgers in the 90s when I was at the station. We would wa Why did I want to read this book? Basically I don't remember the episode or any that he was actually on... only saw them in context of review of Mr. Rodgers career and triumphs over topics. And it is always always so interesting to hear the background of someone that is now highlighted as such an important piece of PBS/Mr. Rodgers and television history in a way. As a former producer of content for a PBS station I do remember watching Mr. Rodgers in the 90s when I was at the station. We would watch it in the lobby on the monitor there and just love it, partially for the kitsch but also for the emotion of the show. I really do appreciate the publisher for giving me the opportunity to preview the book. There is an opening letter to Mr. Rogers. It was incredibly touching and warm and I have to say I had to stop reading because I just was an emotional wreck. But when I opened the book up again I was taken on the very best journey. Sad, anger inducing but so incredibly worth it. The rest of the book had that warmth. I felt like Dr. Clemmons was sitting next to me telling me his story as I was reading. It was conversational and moved so quickly because I just got enrobed in his story he was telling me. He writes of his formative first five years and his family at that time and it is amazing... what is so interesting is that this really wasn't too long ago... use of the word mastuh is really brave (it was the Jim Crow South… and lets not forget… this is still happening in so many ways). Sometimes history we learn states that relationship didn't exist... it absolutely did and this shouldn't be forgotten and I am really proud to see that written about in this memoir. It sets a scene for a childhood that is so outside the norm for so many of his readers it's important to remember, recognize and honor. He writes in very specific terms about the racism that he encounters when joining his friends. What struck me was at the church he got it from a religious person and at the VFW from the doorman. What was so impressive and a reminder is how the story plays out later in his life. Dr. Clemmons discusses the pain and furor of his stepfather and how instead of being subjected to the domestic violence that entered the home, he would retreat to music with his music teacher. I would imagine that this is more usual than unusual for so many and another reason why I think this book is a triumph. In simple language, you are taken inside his mental space and you understand what he went through. His tales of how his high school counselors actually have the gal to tell him to not apply to college but to go to a vocational school shows how misguided they were, based on his heritage and color of his skin. Sadly I do think this happens still. Again inert racism. He realized at that time that he was going to have to make it on his own if he wanted to follow his passions because no one in the authority positions were going to help him out. Again, without saying it... I am guessing those guidance counselors where white. Again this wasn't too long ago... it made me wonder deep down inside... does this still happen? His acceptance to Oberlin September 1963 is a triumph! His college years have him coming into his own with not only his music but his personal life. He learns about himself more and more. He joins the neighborhood and finds a father figure in Mr. Rogers. His insight into learning about who Fred Rogers is was so very interesting. As a person of color, gay and creative his view of the production and team was really insightful and a reminder to give everyone a chance and observe them was super interesting to me. I will try and do this with my peers in my environments more. To quote a business style this truly is learning about "Emotional Intelligence". I don't want to give too much away about the last part of the book because really I am quite sure that is what most readers are going to want to know about it. All I can say is I learned so much about Dr. Clemmons and Fred Rogers and their relationship it made reading the rest of the book so valuable to me. I found the last half of the book filled with optimism, encouragement, honesty and warmth. It was a delight start to finish. This is a book about overcoming adversity, stereotypes, learning about who you are deep down, kindness and overall love. Dr. Clemmons strength and optimism shine through this book which was one of the best biographies I have read in a while. It reads easily, quickly and there are about 100 lessons to be learned on how we go through this world and how we encounter and treat people.Lead with kindness.
    more
  • Kristine
    January 1, 1970
    Officer Clemmons by Francois S. Clemmons is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-April.This book pulled me in from the get-go with the introduction of an open letter to Fred Rogers, a book twenty years in the telling. Somehow, I think this would be amazing as a photo-realistic animated saga with winding, evocative imagery. It’s a full biography from the very beginning, a tough, trying childhood with overt and covert racism, saved by school, performing arts, and his faith; attending college, Officer Clemmons by Francois S. Clemmons is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-April.This book pulled me in from the get-go with the introduction of an open letter to Fred Rogers, a book twenty years in the telling. Somehow, I think this would be amazing as a photo-realistic animated saga with winding, evocative imagery. It’s a full biography from the very beginning, a tough, trying childhood with overt and covert racism, saved by school, performing arts, and his faith; attending college, becoming known for his voice, an artesian, bon vivant energy, gathering the support of his chosen family, classmates, and partners; meeting the Rogers’ while singing together in Presbyterian choir; Fred Rogers as an encompassing conversationalist and listener; shielding his sexuality at production company’s urgings; working in solo music performance and choirs, teaching and mentoring, and giving back to his neighborhood and hometown.
    more
  • Kerrie
    January 1, 1970
    I confess I have never watched Mr. Roger's Neighborhood only because I lived in an area where PBS was unavailable. I chose this book, though, because I was curious about Officer Clemmons. I found the book interesting. Mr. Clemmons is very talented yet was discriminated against. He discusses how he maintained a positive attitude and was soon rewarded for this positive mind set. Mr. Clemmons is a good example of perseverance.I received an advanced copy of this book and the opinions are my own. Tha I confess I have never watched Mr. Roger's Neighborhood only because I lived in an area where PBS was unavailable. I chose this book, though, because I was curious about Officer Clemmons. I found the book interesting. Mr. Clemmons is very talented yet was discriminated against. He discusses how he maintained a positive attitude and was soon rewarded for this positive mind set. Mr. Clemmons is a good example of perseverance.I received an advanced copy of this book and the opinions are my own. Thank you #NetGalley and #OfficerClemmons
    more
  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    Growing up watching "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" I never thought of Francois Clemmons as the first African-American to have a recurring role on a children's show, to me Officer Clemmons (his character on the show) was just another trusted member of the neighborhood. When I saw this book was coming out I looked forward to learning more about someone who along with Mister Rogers and Sesame Street had helped me become the person I am today. From his early days living on a plantation, his abusive c Growing up watching "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" I never thought of Francois Clemmons as the first African-American to have a recurring role on a children's show, to me Officer Clemmons (his character on the show) was just another trusted member of the neighborhood. When I saw this book was coming out I looked forward to learning more about someone who along with Mister Rogers and Sesame Street had helped me become the person I am today. From his early days living on a plantation, his abusive childhood to his chance meeting and lifelong friendship with Fred Rogers, Francois Clemmons fought against his expected role in life and chose instead to bring joy to the world with his marvelous voice. He is, in addition to his many talents, a very gifted storyteller whose story brought on a wide range of emotions from laughter to tears as I read of his life's experiences. I enjoyed this very much!
    more
  • Nancy Garbe
    January 1, 1970
    It took me a few chapters to get into the rhythm of Dr. Clemmons’ story. His greatest recognition may have come from his role as Officer Clermmons on Mr Rogers Neighborhood, but telling his own story required a broader view for us to truly understand and recognize the man.I received a free advanced copy of this book from Netgalley and am voluntarily providing my honest review. I was very impressed by the intense life circumstances the author dealt with and the depth of his own abilities to manag It took me a few chapters to get into the rhythm of Dr. Clemmons’ story. His greatest recognition may have come from his role as Officer Clermmons on Mr Rogers Neighborhood, but telling his own story required a broader view for us to truly understand and recognize the man.I received a free advanced copy of this book from Netgalley and am voluntarily providing my honest review. I was very impressed by the intense life circumstances the author dealt with and the depth of his own abilities to manage and occasionally overcome his circumstances. He was certainly blessed with friends who helped him on his way, and Mr. Rogers was extremely significant in helping Dr. Clemmons, but there was a tenacity and deep introspection that kept his life from spiraling out of control. This is a good autobiography and very interesting in view of our current cultural and political times.
    more
  • Kaity Stuckert
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.Mr. Clemmons no doubt led an interesting life and his book had potential, but the writing just wasn't as strong as I had hoped for.
Write a review