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Clinton College marks 114 years of history

Clinton Junior College Faculty and guests begin their walk to the gymnasium to begin the Founders Day Celebration on Friday. The school celebrated 114 years of existence. More than $70,000 was donated during the event.
Clinton Junior College Faculty and guests begin their walk to the gymnasium to begin the Founders Day Celebration on Friday. The school celebrated 114 years of existence. More than $70,000 was donated during the event.

Just inside the entrance of Clinton Junior College's campus is a brick and marble monument.

A.M.E.Z. Institute 1894, it reads.

The monument represents 114 years of Clinton history, celebrated Friday during the annual Founders Day event.

Founders Day brings Clinton students together with members of the AME Zion Church, where Clinton has its roots.

It brought back alumni such as 71-year-old Emmett Browning Sr., a 1950s Clinton graduate who met his late wife there and went on to be a pastor in the AME Zion Church. One of Browning's four daughters also taught at the school.

"I love the college," he said. "It's a great institution -- down to earth. They take in people who don't have the money to do what they want to do and they train them. Some of the best people in society came out of Clinton."

Founders Day also attracts those such as Rock Hill resident Clara Gilmore, who doesn't have a personal connection to Clinton, but is a member of the AME Zion Church.

"It helps a lot of children," she said. "Kids who wouldn't be able to attend a large college can go here and get a good benefit out of it."

Founders Day also brings in money. More than $70,000 was donated to Clinton Junior College during the event in the school's gym.

In a sermon-like speech that begged "amens" and "yes sirs" from the roughly 150-member audience, Bishop Kenneth Monroe of the Western West Africa Episcopal District urged attendees to adopt the Army's motto and be all that they can be.

Monroe praised those who founded the first historically black colleges to serve recently freed slaves who had no other options for higher education.

"Those men and women of yesteryear were determined to be all they could be," he said.

He cautioned people not to accept the circumstances they are given and to rise above obstacles that might keep them from achieving their goals.

"We should not settle for anything less than the best," Monroe said. "If we are not careful, we could become victims of a disease called average."

Clinton Junior College, initially called Clinton Institute, was formed in 1894 by the Rev. Nero Crockett, presiding elder of the Yorkville District of the South Carolina Conference of the AME Zion Church, and the Rev. W.M. Robinson, pastor of the Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church. It was named after Bishop Isom Caleb Clinton, the presiding bishop of South Carolina.

Clinton began as a boarding high school for newly freed blacks. It became Clinton Normal and Industrial Institute in the early 20th century and began granting state teacher certificates.

Last semester, the school served about 80 students.

College officials unveiled a proclamation Friday that dates to the time when Clinton was started. The proclamation, which is not dated, states that land for the college and a little money were donated by the city.

"To have heard these words of those who had just come out of slavery ... They could see this day back then," Bishop Clarence Carr said. "That was faith. They were courageous, and they planted what has sprouted up to be this religious institution."

Clinton College marks 114 years of historyFounders Day brings students, AME Zion Church together -- as well as some important donationsThe founders

Clinton Junior College was formed in 1894 by the Rev. Nero Crockett, presiding elder of the Yorkville District of the South Carolina Conference of the AME Zion Church, and the Rev. W.M. Robinson, pastor of the Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church. It was named after Bishop Isom Caleb Clinton, the presiding bishop of South Carolina.

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