John Clayton '39
1992 Distinguished Alumnus Award
John Clayton '39 had a knack for telling stories. With having led a long and distinguished filmmaking career, he had quite few stories to tell. He was known as an independent film producer who produced and directed films in more than 40 countries.
Clayton graduated from Carroll in 1939 with a bachelor of divinity degree in philosophy and English and went on to earn a master of divinity from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School in New York. While working as a chaplain at the University of Missouri, he had an opportunity to make a film for the school’s Presbyterian Student Center. He enjoyed it so much that he moved with his wife, Allie, and their four children to Los Angeles in 1954.
During his studies while earning a master’s degree in cinema from the University of Southern California, he had the opportunity to work on a production team. He was the assistant director for the Oscar-winning documentary “The Face of Lincoln.” From there, Clayton was hired by the national Methodist church to head up its new film production studio in Nashville, Tenn. During his 10 years there, he made several highly regarded educational films for television.
He then transitioned as an independent producer where he was able to broaden the scope of his work and audience appeal of the documentary and dramatic films for both church organizations and non-profit humanitarian and educational groups. Clayton “made films for just about everybody,” including National Geographic Society, ABC, National Education Association, Warner Entertainment, Presbyterian Church USA, Lake Placid Winter Olympics Committee and Nickelodeon.
John has been honored with many national and international awards for quality film writing, direction and production. His work was characterized by two hallmarks: quality in production and the illumination of the human condition. Clayton passed away in October 1998 at the age of 81.