Richardson, Clifton Frederick, Sr. (1892–1939)

By: Amber Seely and Leon Richardson

Type: Biography

Published: July 2, 2008

Updated: November 1, 2017

Clifton Frederick Richardson was a black editor, publisher, journalist, political activist, and civic booster in Houston during the period of 1911–1939. Both as an editor and journalist and as a political activist he can be defined using the titles of four of the publications he edited: "Watchman, Observer, Informer and Defender." Clifton Richardson was born in Marshall, Texas, on October 30, 1892, the youngest of the three children of Charlie, a laborer, and Bettie, a housewife. He graduated with honors from Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, in June 1909 with a degree in journalism and printing. While there he was the first editor of the weekly college publication, The Louisiana Watchman. Clifton Richardson married Ruby Leola Rice, his childhood sweetheart, on June 13, 1909, in Marshall, Texas. He and his wife moved to Dallas in 1910 where he worked as a printer with the Dallas Express.

In 1911 Richardson moved his family to Houston in response to a request from Prof. E. D. Pierson to work with the Western Star. In March 1916 William N. Nickerson, Jr., Clifton F. Richardson, Sr., R. T. Andrews, and Campbell A. Gilmore founded the Houston Observer, and Richardson became the first managing editor of the paper. On May 2, 1919, he founded and became the editor of the Houston Informer. On October 11, 1930, Clifton Richardson founded and became editor/publisher of the Houston Defender. Richardson was a vocal supporter of civil rights, writing many articles on the issue in his various publications. He was a founding member of the Civic Betterment League (CBL) of Harris County and founding member and later president of Houston's NAACP chapter. He endured threats of violence and an attack on the Houston Informer newspaper office for his activism.

Clifton Richardson was also an officer of the following businesses, fraternal, political, and civic organizations: American Mutual Benefit Association Inc. (partner), the Safety and Loan Brokerage Company (vice-president), Houston Community Chest (director of a 1925 charity drive), National Negro Business League (executive committee), the Houston Negro Chamber of Commerce (one of the founders and first vice-president), Texas Association of Negro Musicians for South Texas (district director), Coleridge-Taylor Choral Choir (president), Houston Colored Commercial Club (executive secretary), Houston Independent Voters Leagues/Progressive Voters' League (one of the founders), Black and Tan Party of Harris County (co-founder in the 1920s), Real Building and Loan Association (president), Houston Negro Business League (president), Bethel Baptist Church (chairman of the board of trustees), Bethel Baptist Church (director of the school choir, soloist with the senior church choir, and teacher of the men's Bible class), Webster-Richardson Publishing Company (president), grand president of several Juneteenth celebrations, and Southern Collegiate Conference Texas (official umpire for all games played at Prairie View State College). He was a member of the following organizations: Ancient Order of Pilgrims and United Brothers of Friendship, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, and the YMCA.

Clifton F. Richardson died of kidney failure in August 1939. His funeral procession was one of the largest in Houston's history. In a tribute to him at his death, society editor Miss M. E. B. Isaacs stated, "If I could write his epitaph, I would inscribe upon his tombstone-Clifton F. Richardson, Negro Journalist and fearless defender of the Black Man's Rights." C. F. Richardson, Sr., was one of the four outstanding Black History makers featured on Houston's Metro 1988 Black Calendar. On March 21, 1991, he was enshrined in the Black Press Gallery of Distinguished Newspaper Publishers at Howard University by the National Newspaper Publishers Association-Black Press of America.

Houston Defender, September 2, 1939. Ellis Elizabeth Newell, The Life and Works of C. F. Richardson (senior thesis, Houston College for Negroes, 1941).

  • Journalism
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Publishers and Executives
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Amber Seely and Leon Richardson, “Richardson, Clifton Frederick, Sr.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 2, 2008
November 1, 2017

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