By Barbara Fluhrer
Vera Clanton died Saturday, June 1 at her home in San Francisco. She was 96. Her funeral will be held Tuesday, June 11 at 3rd Baptist Church at 10 a.m.
In the 1960s, she founded Vera’s Charm School on Divisadero, one of the more famous streets in the San Francisco arts and scene. Charm schools had the impressive job of teaching young women the social and cultural skills to move comfortably in different levels of society.
It was a lucrative business, and Clanton had the vision to bring the opportunity for self-improvement and self-sufficiency to her community through the charm school’s events, including many fashion shows.
She demonstrated her social and cultural skills in her life, joining Today’s Artists Concerts/Four Seasons in the 1980s and regularly attending concerts and trips to Yachats, Oregon. She invited the staff to her home, and it was clear that, despite her age, her grace had not diminished.
As they arrived, she invited them to sit down, opened her arms in a grand gesture, and said, “Welcome to my home, where you are invited to return any time.” Clanton expressed her gratitude for all the years of music, remembering the founder of Four Seasons: “Dr. Hazaiah Williams was such a wonderful man. He was a smart man. I like smart people. They may shake you up, but sometimes you need to be shaken up. He took chances for good.”
Up until recently, she continued to entertain with the same gracious manner that was her signature. In her home, there were photos everywhere of her with friends and family, public officials, past presidents, including Bill Clinton.
She frequently expressed gratitude for the support she received early on from other Bay Area artists and entrepreneurs, including Carlton Goodlett and Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson. “When I first came to San Francisco, I met them. They were smart people, too. They made great contributions to our community.”
Clanton epitomized a woman who knew what she wanted and went after it. Her husband, Berry Clanton, was one of the first African American men hired as a longshoreman in San Francisco.
It was her dream to help educate the disadvantaged. Berry passed in 1972, and in 2000, Clanton honored their dream by founding the Berry and Vera Lee Clanton Endowed Scholarship Fund at San Francisco State University.
Her life was devoted to “Keeping the vision alive.”