ALBANY, Ga. — Lamar Clifton, the man credited with helping land some of Albany’s biggest industries and growing the city into the jewel of Southwest Georgia during its golden years, has died. He was 84.
Friends were mourning Clifton’s passing Wednesday by remembering his contributions to the area and his love of Albany.
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Patsy Martin, the first female president of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, said Clifton was a role model for her in business and a mentor who helped to mold her professional persona.
“You just can’t overstate his contributions to the area,” Martin said. “We probably owe a bigger debt of gratitude for what he was able to do during his tenure in economic development here than just about anyone else.”
At the chamber, where Clifton helped shape policy, governance and business development, officials were saddened to hear of his passing.
“The passing of Lamar Clifton is sad for the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce,” Rachelle Bitterman, director of communications for the chamber, said. “Mr. Clifton was a visionary, as well as a great historian. He loved Albany and wanted only the best for its citizens.
“He brought hundreds of jobs to Albany during his tenure as director of the Albany Chamber and continued to work tirelessly after his retirement to make Albany a great place to do businesses. The chamber is proud to have had the opportunity to dedicate a meeting room in Mr. Clifton’s honor during his lifetime. There is no gentleman more deserving.”
Clifton was born in Albany in 1929 and first went to work as a boy as the downtown newspaper salesman for The Albany Herald in the decade following the Great Depression.
In 1950, Clifton graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism and accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army following graduation. He served in Korea, earning a Bronze Star.
After returning stateside, Clifton married his fiancee, Evelyn Butler, and went back to UGA, where he got his master’s degree in education. After a brief time teaching in Athens and Albany, Clifton went to work with the chambers of commerce in Albany, Columbia, S.C., and Mobile, Ala., before accepting a position as the executive of the Albany Chamber in 1973.
During his tenure, Clifton helped negotiate deals with Miller Brewing Co., Tara Foods, Delco Remy, Procter & Gamble and the Marine Corps Logistics Group in Philadelphia, Pa., to build or relocate operations to Albany, creating thousands of jobs and growing the prosperity of the region.
He left the chamber in 1987 and went to work as the senior vice president for economic development at First State Bank.
Clifton’s funeral service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church.