Palo Alto Online - Lasting Memories - Haile Selassie Clay's memorial
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Haile Selassie Clay
Jan. 22, 1936-Oct. 25, 2017
Montclair, Oakland, California

Haile Selassie Clay, a 50-year Palo Alto resident, lived a life worthy of celebration. The seventh of nine children born to Charles John Clay (born in Mississippi) and Emma Jean Greenfield Clay (born in Alabama), Haile entered this world on January 22, 1936, in Kinloch, Missouri.

As a child, Haile cleaned the church where his father was a minister, participated in track and field, and despite the trials of racial segregation, Haile, like his siblings, was filled with the desire for learning, living life to the fullest, and taking advantage of every opportunity life afforded him.

For Haile, it was not enough to be the first African-American engineering graduate at the University of Missouri. According to Who’s Who of College Students in America 1957-1958, while he was earning his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Haile was Dunklin House secretary and governor; Men’s Residence Halls Association secretary; Association of College and University Residence Halls representative; a member on the University Health Commission; a musical presentation participant; a track-and-field athlete; a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; a member of Sigma Rho Sigma; a Sunday school teacher and employed by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation.

Always searching for a greater challenge, Haile’s education did not end in Missouri. In 1960, he moved to California’s Silicon Valley and went on to earn his Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Masters of Business Administration from Santa Clara University. He was accepted into a PhD. program by the Mechanical Engineering Department of Stanford University before deciding he had accumulated enough formal education.

After Haile moved to California, he was introduced to his future wife, Jo Ann Howard, by a childhood friend who happened to be Jo Ann’s nephew. Haile and Jo Ann were soon blessed with three children of their own: Charles, Andrea, and Haile (Teddy), who will forever miss his great sense of humor, brutal honesty, dependability, and trustworthiness.

A perennial business leader, entrepreneur and inventor, Haile’s legacy in Silicon Valley includes engineering calculations used in missile telemetry systems that helped win the space race, several patents for the Atomic Energy Commission, and work at North American Aviation, Sylvania defense systems, and at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) where he was a leader in the field of cryogenics. Haile was known as a business consultant for minority-owned small businesses, headed Clay-Leffler Environmental Systems as CEO, was executive vice president of Bank of America in charge of supervised assets, and president of Western Farm Credit banks. Haile’s patents range from a “secondary X-ray imaging technique for diagnosing a health condition,” which he developed to improve the diagnoses of cancer, to simple devices that improved his beloved game of golf.

Haile enjoyed his family, golf, tennis, cooking, and home building. He was described as a person who “walked around the house with a tool belt on.” A sociable person, Haile was a fixture as a young man at Fremont Hills Country Club in Los Altos Hills, whether it was playing bridge or sets on the tennis court. As an older gentleman, Haile could often be found holding social court in the Lobby Lounge & Bar at the Claremont Club and Spa in Oakland Hills. In between entertaining family and friends with his bigger-than-life stories and laughter and cooking bar-b-que and inventing new desserts, all while wearing his Apple Cap and drinking his glass of Chardonnay, Haile somehow found the time to tend to his grandchildren’s music and sports lessons, and make it to every one of their school and sport events.

Haile Selassie Clay departed this life Oct. 25, in the year of our Lord 2017, leaving behind to celebrate his love, brilliance, and life are children, Charles, Andrea, and Haile (Teddy); grandchildren, Virginia, Madison, and Furious; siblings, Roy, Charles, Imogene and Myrtle; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and in-laws. Haile now joins his parents, and siblings Thaddeus, Pauline, William and Hope in the Kingdom of Heaven.

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