Nolen to be inducted into Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame

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ENID, Okla. — Longtime Enid educator, community leader and 2021 Pillar of the Plains Clayton Nolen has been selected into the Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame.

He will be a member of the 2022 class of OAAE Hall of Fame inductees.

The induction ceremony will be Sept. 30, 2022, at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.

“Mr. Clayton Eric Nolen was a devoted educator who successfully taught, mentored, supported and championed countless students in his Enid community and continues to do so post retirement,” a press release announcing the upcoming induction stated. “Formers students still seek him out to share with him the impact he had in their lives and career choices.”

Nolen was born to Clafon and Wilma Brewer Nolen on June 6, 1947, in Portland, Ore. His family moved to Enid, where he attended Carver Elementary School, Longfellow Junior High School and graduated from Enid High School in 1965.

He was a severe stutterer from second grade through high school, but that didn’t stop him from working hard and maintaining good grades in school. Singing and music became his way of expressing himself, and the stuttering influenced his career choice in college.

With a love and respect for music, he originally pursued a degree in music at Langston University, later transferring to Central State University (now University of Central Oklahoma), where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in speech pathology and education, as well as a Master of Education degree in school administration and special education.

Nolen identified a need by youth in his community, specifically Black youth who did not know how to swim. As a working college student, he managed Owen’s Pool in the black community, teaching swimming to children as well as adults. He was also aquatic director for the YMCA in Edmond, where he and a co-worker began a senior recognition banquet for graduating African American students, in recognition of their accomplishments.

Described as a self-motivated educator and mentor, Nolen spent the first seven years of his 42-year career with Enid Public Schools as a traveling speech pathologist servicing seven elementary schools and providing therapy at Carver Educational Center. As an adult education teacher, he spent the next six years teaching math and science. After becoming director of adult education, the next 35 years of his career included relocating that program to Carver Educational Center and expanding it to include daytime and evening classes with instruction in English, science, math, history, English as a second language, and daily living skills for adults with disabilities.

He assigned teachers to visit home-bound students who were confined to their homes. Additionally, he was chief GED examiner, supervisor of the juvenile detention school, schools at Sequoyah Boy’s Group Home and Integris Behavioral Health. In addition, he created the African American Male Mentoring Program for young African American males in Enid Public Schools.

“(Education) was my life. It was my livelihood,” Nolen said in a December interview when he was nominated for the Enid News & Eagle Pillar of the Plains award. “So I had to support that in any manner that I could.”

Nolen served as Ward 3 Enid city commissioner for four years, served as chairman of Enid Community Block Grant committee for three years and was chairman of the Enid Police Civil Service Board for two of his five-year term. He was a member of Enid AM AMBUCS, established the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission for the city of Enid, and he currently is serving on the Truth and Sentencing Advisory Council for four counties.

“I never thought that I’d be doing (public service) in Enid,” Nolen said. “There was not very many diversities in different positions here in Enid.”

His professional affiliations include Enid Higher Education Trustee Board, Minority Recruitment Council for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, State Juvenile Task Force, Oklahoma Teacher Certification Test Bias Review Committee, African American Male State Task Force, Enid Education Association, Oklahoma Education Association, National Education Association, Black Higher Education Association, OEA Black Caucus, Oklahoma Adult Basic Education Association, Oklahoma Retired Teachers Association and Enid Retired Teachers Association.

Nolen was the recipient of the key to the city of Enid; honored by having a bridge dedicated in his name; awarded the 2021-2022 Enid Pillar of the Plains by the Enid News and Eagle; named to the Enid Walk of Fame; honored for his Gospel program by the Community Churches hosted by Progressive Baptist Church; Celebrate Literacy Award; Sistah-2-Sistah African American Leaders of Enid Award; Citizen of the Year award presented by the Enid High School Black History Club; and recognized by Cherokee Strip Heritage Center for contributing historical information about Blacks in Enid.

He and wife, Varna, have been married for 42 years. They are parents to two sons, Quincy and Bryce, and grandparents to Leah and Bryce II. Nolen is an active member of Grayson Missionary Baptist Church, currently on the board of trustees.

For more information about the OAAE induction event, see or call Shirley Nero at (918) 698-6037.

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