Clayton Howell Heathcock ("little Tex") was born in San Antonio, Texas, on July 21, 1936. His parents were Clayton Heathcock, Sr. and Frances Lay Heathcock.
Shortly after Clayton's birth, the Heathcock family moved to Dallas, Texas, where Clayton, Sr. sold refrigerators on a commission basis. However, this venture was not successful, and they moved back to San Antonio in late 1937. The Heathcock's residence during Clayton's first few years was 613 Ripley Avenue. Clayton's brother, James Franklin Heathcock, was born August 7, 1939, while the family still lived in the Ripley Avenue house.
Although the family moved around fairly often, Clayton was raised mostly on the Southeast side of San Antonio. Many of his childhood weekends were spent in Stockdale, Texas at the home of his grandparents, Will and Molly Heathcock. There he and his brother Jim spent many hours playing childhood games with their cousins, Molly, Randy, and Jack. These were the easy bygone days of childhood - mud puddles, selling watermelons from Will Heathcock's field at a roadside stand, reading the Sears & Roebuck catalog while sitting in the outhouse behind Will and Molly's house, drawing water from the well and drinking it from a porcelain cup. Another memory is of Will Heathcock killing a seven-foot-long rattlesnake by shooting it in the head with his `six-shooter', which he kept hanging by his bed at night. During this period, Clayton, Sr. worked at the Plaza Hotel Laundry. On weekends, he was permitted to use the laundry panel truck, which had only one seat. Clayton remembers many trips to Stockdale, Clayton, Sr. driving, Frances sitting on an orange crate, and Clayton, Jr. and Jim sitting in the floor in the back of the laundry truck, often with some yet-to-be-delivered clothes hanging on the bars overhead.
In 1944 Clayton, Sr. and Frances took their two sons to Georgetown, Texas, where Clayton, Sr. worked in a laundry that belonged to Frances's uncle. While they lived in Georgetown, Peggy Frances Heathcock was born (September 24, 1945). In Georgetown, the Heathcock family lived in a rented house on a large fenced lot that was bisected by a three-foot wide stream. It was here that Clayton developed his early engineering skills, by building a mud-and-rock dam that converted the stream into a ten-foot wide pond. In this pond, Clayton and Jim kept two pet turtles, each about one foot in diameter. Each turtle had a hole drilled in the edge of its shell. A long piece of wire was looped through this hole and tied to a wooden stick. When the turtles buried themselves in the deep mud of the pond, as they were prone to do, it was possible to find and retrieve them.
The family returned to San Antonio in 1946. After completion of elementary school, Clayton attended Emerson Junior High School. While he was still in Junior High School, he had his first job, a paper route, delivering the San Antonio Express and Evening News twice a day and once on Sunday, from the age of 13 to 15. The Sunday deliveries totaled about 100 papers and usually required two trips. After expenses, the job netted about $60 per month, a princely sum in those days.
After his father's death in 1950, Clayton, Jr. entered Brackenridge High School, continuing his paper route through his freshman year. During his sophomore year, he took an after-school and weekend job at the National Shirt Shop, on Houston Street in downtown San Antonio. In this job he was first a stock boy and later a salesman. He held this part-time job through the summer after his graduation from Brackenridge in 1954.
While in high school, Clayton, Jr. was a member of the Student Council. He was a candidate for student body president during his junior year, but lost the election. During his senior year, he was Vice President of the Student Council. He was a member of several honor societies, including the National Honor Society.
Clayton, Jr. attended Abilene Christian College (ACC), in Abilene, Texas, from 1954-58. He majored in chemistry with an obligatory minor in bible. During his junior year, he worked in the chemistry stockroom. It was here, in the Spring of 1957, that he met Mabel Ruth "Sam" Sims, a freshman chemistry major. After a brief courtship, they announced their engagement during the early summer of 1957. They were married in Houston, Texas, on September 6, 1957, and returned to Abilene for Clayton's last year of College.
Clayton, Jr. and Ruth ("Tex" and "Sam" to their friends) lived in a one-room apartment a few blocks from ACC during Clayton's senior year. Clayton serve as a teaching assistant in the analytical chemistry course and Ruth was secretary for Dr. Witt, the Chairman of ACC's small chemistry department.
After graduation in 1958, Clayton and Ruth moved to Houston, Texas, where Clayton tried his hand at door-to-door sales, with the intention of entering graduate school in the fall semester of 1958. Like his father, however, Clayton was not much of a salesman. He earned exactly enough to pay for his sample kit of stainless steel cookware. Since Ruth was now pregnant with their first child, and since their 1949 Plymouth had just given up the ghost, Clayton took a permanent job with the Champion Paper and Fibre Company in Pasadena, Texas.
At Champion, Clayton was assigned to the central analytical laboratory and the management training program. After one year, he was promoted to Supervisor of the Chemical Tests Group in the central laboratory. He remained in this capacity at Champion until the fall of 1960, when he entered the doctoral program in chemistry at the University of Colorado. During the two years in Pasadena, two daughters, Cheryl Lynn Heathcock and Barbara Sue Heathcock, had been born (on October 28, 1958 and October 28, 1959, respectively).
The young family set up housekeeping in Boulder, Colorado in September, 1960. Their home was one-half of a furnished, surplus U.S. Army quonset hut, which they rented for $50 per month. It was fitted out with two bedrooms, plus a living room, a kitchen, and a bath (all diminutive). Since Ruth was fully occupied raising the two small children, the family had to live on the $180 per month that Clayton earned as the teaching assistant in the biochemistry laboratory. During the 1960-61 school year, Ruth became pregnant with their third child.
At the end of the spring semester of 1961, Clayton, Ruth, and the two girls moved to Baytown, Texas. The plan was for Clayton to work for three months at the Exxon Research Labs so that Ruth could have the third child in Houston, near her mother and father. Indeed, Steven Wayne Heathcock was born in Houston on June 16, 1961. Clayton's summer research was with the new analytical tool, nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry. His work at Baytown led to his first scientific article, which was published in the Canadian Journal of Chemistry.
The growing Heathcock family started Clayton's second year of graduate work in much improved fiscal shape. In the spring of 1961, Clayton was awarded a Graduate Fellowship by the National Science Foundation. The Fellowship relieved him of the need to work as a teaching assistant and paid the handsome sum of $330 per month, a healthy increase over the $180 per month that he had earned during his first year of graduate school. During this year, Clayton's research, under the direction of Colorado chemistry professor Alfred Hassner, began to blossom. By the end of 1962, Clayton was putting the finishing touches on the experimental work for his Ph.D. thesis and Ruth was pregnant with their fourth child. She gave birth to Rebecca Ann Heathcock in Boulder on February 6, 1963.
During the summer of 1962, Clayton had met Gilbert Stork, a noted synthetic organic chemist from Columbia University, when Stork gave a special course at Colorado. During the summer term, Stork approached Clayton and invited him to join his research group at Columbia for postdoctoral research. Clayton agreed and applied to the National Science Foundation for a postdoctoral fellowship. The fellowship was awarded and Clayton took his family to New York City after his graduation from Colorado in August, 1963.
The Heathcock family lived in Hackensack, New Jersey. Hackensack is in Bergen County, more-or-less west of the George Washington Bridge. Clayton commuted to Columbia by car, leaving before daylight so as arrive in the vicinity of Columbia University by 6:30 am. This schedule was necessary in order to find a parking space. To avoid the afternoon rush traffic, he normally remained at Columbia until after 7 pm, arriving home well after dark. One night a week there was a departmental colloquium, and Clayton stayed until its end, at about 10 pm. At Columbia, Clayton did research on the total synthesis of steroid hormones.
In January, 1964, Clayton flew to Berkeley for an interview at the University of California. Shortly after his return to New York, he received a telegram from Richard Powell, Chairman of the Berkeley Chemistry Department, offering him the position of Assistant Professor at a salary of $8,100 for nine months. He accepted the position and the family moved their belongings to Berkeley in August, 1964. Their first abode was a three bedroom townhouse in Richmond.
The next six years were busy ones. As is typical for junior faculty at major research institutions like Berkeley, Clayton worked 60-70 hour weeks. This left Ruth alone for long periods with four small children. In 1969, Clayton was told by Bruce Mahan, then Chairman of the Berkeley Chemistry Department, that he had been recommended for promotion to the tenured position of Associate Professor, effective July 1, 1970.
However, 1960-70 had been a decade of intense preoccupation with chemistry for Clayton--first as a student then as a young faculty member struggling to make a name for himself. The preoccupation had taken its toll on the relationship between Clayton and Ruth, and they had begun to drift in separate directions. During Clayton's sabbatical leave, January-July, 1971, the family lived together in Zurich, Switzerland. Shortly after their return, they sold their duplex in Berkeley and moved to San Rafael, in Marin County. After a somewhat trying period of personal readjustment, they separated in 1972. For the first half-year after the separation, Clayton lived in a bachelor apartment in Kensington, near the UC Berkeley campus. Ruth lived in San Rafael with the four children. In the fall of 1972, Clayton moved back to San Rafael and assumed the role of bachelor father and Ruth set up housekeeping with Herman Vandestraat, whom she met through her job in real estate.
For the four years from 1972 until 1976, Clayton raised his four children as the custodial parent. During this period he was also Vice Chairman of the Chemistry Department and wrote the first edition of "Introduction to Organic Chemistry" with his colleague Andrew Streitwieser. The book has subsequently appeared in second, third, and fourth editions and has been translated into German, French, Japanese, Italian, and Spanish. It has been used by an estimated 300,000 students worldwide during the 18 years since it first appeared in 1976. Clayton was promoted to Professor of Chemistry in 1976. In this capacity he teaches undergraduate and graduate chemistry courses and provides daily oversight of the Ph.D. research of 15-20 graduate students.
In 1976, Clayton met a young Berkeley chemistry graduate student named Cheri Rae Hadley. He was smitten with her and initiated a courtship. Partly as a result of this new romantic interest, Clayton worked out an agreement with Ruth (who had by this time married Herman Vandestraat) that she would assume the responsibility of custodial parent for the four children. Thus, in August, 1976, Clayton sold the San Rafael house and purchased a home in Kensington, three miles from the Berkeley campus. Cheri Hadley moved into the Kensington house with Clayton in 1977 and in then 1980 they were married on the day after Thanksgiving. Their small family wedding was held in the world-reknown Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse; the couple honeymooned at the Timber Cove Inn on the rugged North California coast in Mendocino county.
From early 1981 until the middle of 1983, Cheri Hadley commuted to Los Angeles, where she did postdoctoral work with George Popjak at the UCLA School of Medicine. The normal routine was for Clayton to drop Cheri off at the Oakland airport early Monday morning and pick her up at about 6 pm on Friday. Cheri kept an efficiency apartment and her 1967 Mustang in Los Angeles and racked up lots of miles on Pacific Southwest Airlines. In fact, during one promotional period, Cheri earned enough credit in PSA's frequent flier program that she had a free pass for one month. During this period, it was not uncommon for her to come home for Berkeley dinner parties during the week, in addition to her regular trip home on the weekend.
Clayton was Chairman of the Chemistry Department from 1986 through 1989. He also served as Editor-in-Chief of the periodical Organic Syntheses in 1988 and has been Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Organic Chemistry since 1989. He has been a member of the Scientific Advisory Council of Abbott Laboratories, in North Chicago, Illinois, since 1986. He is past Chairman of the American Chemical Society Division of Organic Chemistry and has been honored by the Society with the Ernest Guenther Award in 1986, the Aldrich Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry in 1990, and the H. C. Brown Award for Creative Research in Synthetic Methods in 2002. In 1991, Clayton and Cheri travelled to Zurich, Switzerland, where Clayton was awarded the Prelog Medal by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. In 1995 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He served as Dean of the College of Chemistry from 1999 until his retirement in 2005. Since July of 2005 he has held the position of Chief Scientist of QB3 Berkeley, the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research.
Cheri Hadley has served as Managing Editor of the Journal of Organic Chemistry, a position in which she supervised a staff of 3-4 clerical assistants in managing the flow of more than 2000 scientific manuscripts per year. She is currently Staff Specialist in the UC Berkeley College of Chemistry. Her duties are in hazardous materials management, including a Chemical Redistribution Facility with its necessary computerized tracking system, and management of the undergraduate instructional program of the Department of Chemistry, supervising the instructional support staff and being responsible for the instructional budget and resources.
One of Clayton's hobbies is genealogy. The research upon which these essays are based was initiated in 1977, when Clayton and his sixteen-year-old son Steven went to Texas, Alabama, and Salt Lake City to poke around in courthouses and the LDS Genealogical Library. It is an interest that has continued sporadically ever since. Clayton has made two other trips to Salt Lake City and a number of visits to the DAR Library and the National Archives in Washington. On one occasion, he spent two days in Jackson, Mississippi, for genealogical research.
Clayton and Cheri's other hobby is raising and showing Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. They bought their first Ridgeback in early 1988 as a family companion. Subsequently, they became interested in dog shows and entered their young dog, Morganna, in a few shows. When Morganna completed her American Kennel Club Conformation Championship in only six shows, Clayton and Cheri were hooked. They bought another dog, and then decided to try their hand at breeding under the kennel name Camelot Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Their first litter produced a handsome male named Camelot's Technical Knockout (call name `Bruiser'). Bruiser quickly achieved his Championship and developed a national reputation in Rhodesian Ridgeback circles, earning more than 100 Bests of Breed and ranking nationally among the top three Rhodesian Ridgebacks in 1992, 1993, and 1994. In 1995 Bruiser travelled to South Africa for breeding and showing and achieved his South African Championship in his first two weekends of shows and in 1997 he became a Zimbabwean Champion, making him the only living Rhodesian Ridgeback to have Championships in the United States, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
Clayton continued to breed and show Ridgebacks, becoming more and more involved in the fancy, eventually being elected President of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States. Two of his dogs have won all-breed Bests in Show and one has won the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States National Specialty Show. He is now approved to judge Ridgebacks by the American Kennel Club.