Dr. Clara Childs Mackenzie - Village Leader and Activist
12211 Coit Road
During the thirty years that Clara Mackenzie lived in Bratenahl, she was a dedicated community leader and activist. She served the public on the Village Council and the Bratenahl Board of Education; she was a member of the Bratenahl Community Foundation (BCF) for nine years, serving as co-president of the BCF with her husband Allen for two years; she became the first Director of the Bratenahl Community Center (BCC), which she was instrumental in creating; taught English and Communications at Bratenahl High School; and she was active on the Bratenahl PTA, the Bratenahl League of Women Voters and as an advisor to Explorer Scout Post 301.
Dr. Clara Annie Beck Childs Mackenzie was born on May 28, 1931, in Biltmore, North Carolina to William Wallace Anderson Childs and Sarah Mildred Childs (nee Stephens). Clara grew up in South Carolina, living in Charlestown and later in Spartanburg. She graduated from Spartanburg High School in 1947, where she was class poet, drama club president and chemistry club member. She earned a BA degree and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Converse College in 1951. She graduated early to serve as a teacher at an Episcopal Mission boarding school for native American orphans, located in Nenana, Alaska. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and traveled to Westfield College in London, where she studied postgraduate English Literature. While attending Westfield, Clara was presented to Queen Elizabeth II. Upon her return to the United States, she continued her graduate work at Duke University and earned a master’s degree in English Literature in 1954. After college she taught at Madison College in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Clara married Dr. Allen H. Mackenzie in 1957 and moved to Ashland, Kentucky to begin a family. They settled in Cleveland in 1958 where the couple raised four children. Early in her career, Clara taught English at Euclid Senior High School and became an instructor of English at Fenn College (now Cleveland State University) and Kent State University.
The family moved to 12211 Coit Road in Bratenahl in May 1962. Clara became a member of the Bratenahl League of Women Voters in 1963 and President of the Bratenahl P.T.A. in 1964. In 1965, Clara was the winner of a write-in slot on the ballot to become a member of the Bratenahl Board of Education, where she served for five years. She was Vice President of the School Board from 1968 to 1970.
Clara served on the Bratenahl School Board during the early years of the fight to save the Bratenahl School as an independent school system. She was one of the founding members of “The Bratenahl School Plan.” This was an unprecedented program through which Bratenahl integrated its school system beginning in September 1968, by means of Bratenahl residents voluntarily paying the tuition cost of Cleveland minority school children to attend the Bratenahl School. The foundation that was established to manage these funds would eventually become the Bratenahl Community Foundation. In addition, while on the School Board, Clara was actively engaged in a letter writing campaign to state officials and Ohio newspaper editors urging support for Bratenahl’s plan to build a new high school and avoid merger with the Cleveland school district.
After leaving the school board, Clara resumed graduate work at Case Western Reserve University and in 1971 earned a Ph.D. in American Literature and Linguistics. She headed the English and Communications section of the newly created Bratenahl High School from 1971 to 1974. At the same time, Clara was an advisor to the Bratenahl Explorer Post 301 of the Boy Scouts of America.
Clara was appointed by Mayor Richard McKeon to serve on the Bratenahl Community Foundation in November 1984, where she served on the school committee. A primary focus of the school committee in those years was to provide transportation to Village children who attended various area schools.
In November 1985, Clara and Allen Mackenzie became co-presidents of the BCF board. They would partner as heads of the foundation for two years. In September 1986, Clara recommended that a major objective of the BCF should be to seek the return of the two Bratenahl school buildings to the Village, previously transferred to the Cleveland school district, for the purpose of maintaining a community center with activities of benefit to the community. She urged a community wide fund-raising effort in anticipation that an opportunity might arise to reacquire the buildings.
Early in 1987, Mayor McKeon and the Mackenzies sent letters to the Cleveland School Superintendent urging the return of the elementary school building to Bratenahl. She met with Cleveland school officials and distributed floor plans of the school building, identifying how the facility could be used to benefit the community and identifying required repairs and renovations to the building.
In July 1987, Clara prepared a grant application to the Ohio Department of Education in support of a community center in the elementary school. BCF eventually was awarded two Community Education Grants totaling $11,000.
Initially, the Village was not interested in acquiring the elementary school for municipal purposes. Clara was not dissuaded from her efforts. She continued to meet with Cleveland school officials seeking to have the school system transfer the school building to the Village at nominal cost.
Since the Village Council was primarily concerned about the cost of maintaining the building, Clara proposed that the Bratenahl Community Foundation underwrite possible maintenance costs. At her urging, the BCF Board agreed to take financial responsibility for maintenance and utility costs should the village acquire the building.
After months of work, Clara’s efforts were rewarded. In March 1989, the Cleveland School Board agreed to transfer title to the elementary school building to the Village for one dollar. The Village, in turn, leased the building to the BCF. While the Village assumed responsibility for insurance and ground maintenance, the BCF was responsible to maintain and renovate the facility for community use.
In July 1989, Clara was named the first Director of the Bratenahl Community Center. Under her leadership, the BCF repaired the building while attracting a myriad of community programs. In the first year of operation, the center was used for adult exercise activities, a children’s hour, an art group, senior group activities, piano lessons, a dog obedience program and a summer youth program. In its first 11 months of operations, the Bratenahl Community Center was used by 24 groups and attracted over 5,000 visitors.
In November 1989, Clara ran for Village Council on a campaign of community involvement, infrastructure improvement, expanded recreational facilities and a secure and environmentally responsible lifestyle. She received the most votes of any candidate.
During her term on Council, Clara continued to lobby on behalf of the community center and continued management of the facility by the BCF. Most of the Council had other ideas. In March 1993, the Village Council failed to approve a proposal that the BCF continue to operate the BCC. The Council determined that control of the center should pass to the Village’s Recreation Commission.
Clara was an active member at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland and served as Senior Warden, Lector and chalice bearer. When she was elected senior warden of its vestry, Clara became the first woman to hold that position in the 170-year history of Trinity Cathedral. At Trinity, Clara was instrumental in helping to set up a hot food program on Sundays, when no other similar programs were available. The program still exists today, 30 years later, and is now called “A Place at the Table.”
Clara was an accomplished author. She wrote a biography of the native Alaskan, John Fredson, who was responsible for preserving Alaskan lands for his people. The book is titled “Wolf Smeller (Zhoh Gwatsan) A Biography of John Fredson, Native Alaskan.” She revised and published her aunt’s notes on the history of Edisto Island, SC entitled “Edisto: A Sea Island Principality.” She authored two books on the life and writings of Sarah Barnwell Elliot, a nineteenth century Southern Feminist writer: “Some Data and Other Stories of Southern Life” and “Sarah Barnwell Elliot.”
After serving on Bratenahl Village Council and resigning from the BCF, Clara and Allen moved back to Spartanburg, SC where she remained active in her church and community. She was an avid gardener and earned a Masters Garden Certificate through Clemson University.
Dr. Allen H. Mackenzie was a leading clinical investigator of therapies for rheumatic diseases. He served as head of the Clinical Rheumatology Section of the Cleveland Clinic where he practiced for thirty-three years. During his time at the clinic, he published numerous studies, lectured widely, and served as an officer in several professional societies working toward better understanding of autoimmune disorders. The American College of Rheumatology named him Distinguished Rheumatologist for 1993 at its annual meeting. The award recognized “a member of the ACR who has made outstanding contributions in the area of patient care, clinical scholarship, and service to benefit patients with rheumatic diseases.”
Allen and Clara’s four children, David, Sarah, Clara and William, all graduated from the Bratenahl School.
Clara Childs Mackenzie died peacefully in Spartanburg, SC in the 86th year of her life and 60th year of her marriage. Her death resulted from the effects of Parkinson’s disease on October 16, 2017.