Dateline: December 2, 2004
Shirley Jean McAbee
Clifford – the first woman to be mayor of Clarendon – died last
Wednesday, November 24. She was 69.
Services were held
Saturday in the First United Methodist Church with former pastor Rev.
Terry Tamplen officiating. Burial followed in Citizens Cemetery with
arrangements by Robertson Funeral Directors.
Clifford was praised
during the memorial for her friendliness and her service to her community.
“Even though we all
knew Shirley in many ways, we all knew her as a friend,” Tamplen said.
She was born November
17, 1935, in Memphis to Mr. and Mrs. Ode McAbee. She moved during her
early childhood to Childress, where she was raised by her grandparents,
Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Paul Thigpen. She attended school for seven years at
the River Camp School north of Childress, she graduated from Childress
High School, and she enrolled in Clarendon College in the fall of 1953.
She met Jack Clifford
during her first semester at CC, and they were married six months later on
March 28, 1954, in Hereford. Shirley continued her schooling in 1958 and
1959 in Germany at the University of Heidelberg while Jack served in the
The couple returned
to Clarendon in 1959, where Jack was raised, and took over the family
grocery business. The Clifford family owned and operated The Grocery
Store, a long time mainstay of downtown Clarendon, until its closure in
Clifford worked a
number of odd jobs at City Hall and a local furniture store before turning
her attention to raising her three children – Virginia, John, and
Benjamin. When the children began school, she assisted in the family
business, utilizing her cooking skills taught to her by her grandmother at
a very early age.
had had stroke when Shirley was in the sixth grade,” Jack recalled,
“and while lying in bed she would tell Shirley how to cook. She was a
Clifford was an avid
reader; and when she saw the need for a permanent dwelling for the city
library, she ran for the Board of Aldermen, winning handily and becoming
the first woman to serve on that board.
After two terms as
alderman, Clifford made history again in 1981 by being elected as
Clarendon’s first woman mayor, running on the platform, “Clarendon –
Athens of the Panhandle, and we don’t even have a library.”
administration, two buildings on Kearney Street were obtained, remodeled,
and furnished to house the Burton Memorial Library. This was accomplished
through donations and the tireless efforts of patrons and many interested
“She was the
smartest person I’ve ever known and read everything there is to read in
the way of classical literature,” Jack said. “And she knew more about
books than anybody you would ever meet. She ran for office because she
felt that Clarendon had to have a library.”
Clifford was a member
of the First United Methodist Church and was involved in many aspects of
the church’s operation. She taught elementary Sunday school and also
organized the Christmas pageants at the church for many years. She
hand-stitched all the pageant costumes using her excellent sewing
She was a member of
the 1929 Book Club of Clarendon, and she had earned her pilot’s license
alongside her best friend, Anton Riggs.
Survivors include her
husband, Jack of Clarendon; one daughter, Virginia Ann Patten and husband
Briton of Clarendon; two sons, John Walter Clifford of Ft. Worth and
Benjamin Paul Clifford of Little Rock, Ark.; two granddaughters, Abigail
Michelle Patten and Annie Marie Patten of Clarendon; two grandsons, John
Ray Clifford and Robert James Clifford of Ft. Worth; and one sister, Carol
Cary of Leoti, Kansas.
The family suggests
memorials be made to the Burton Memorial Library, PO Box 783, Clarendon,
Copyright © 2004, The Clarendon Enterprise. All Rights Reserved.