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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

May this Texas Character Rest in Peace

I am in Dallas for a few days and saw this obituary in the local paper. I think I would have liked this guy...

Edgar "Heavy" Clayton Jr.: Junkman became a legend

08:03 AM CDT on Saturday, July 14, 2007
By JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News
jsimnacher@dallasnews.com

Edgar "Heavy" Clayton Jr. refused to conform during his 75 years of freestyle living. The Cedar Hill junkman became a small-town legend in the process.

Seemingly oblivious to convention, Mr. Clayton lived his life without a public school education, a driver's license or insurance, among other things.

Mr. Clayton died Sunday of complications from lung cancer at a Cedar Hill nursing home. Friends plan to organize a memorial. His body was donated to MedCure Inc. for medical research.

"He was a fixture to the city," said Cedar Hill Mayor Rob Franke. "He had been here forever, and people knew him and liked him in so many ways."

Mr. Clayton picked up the nickname Heavy as he grew into his powerful 300-pound, 6-foot-3-inch frame as a teenager.

In 1989, Mr. Clayton cemented his legendary status by physically breaking up an armed robbery of P&S Foods in Cedar Hill.

Mr. Clayton was taking part in a backroom game of dominoes when two men tried to rob the convenience store.

"I told them I didn't think it was a real gun and started to fuss with them," Mr. Clayton told The Dallas Morning News at the time.

Mr. Clayton was shot while trying to wrest the gun from one of the robbers.

"The bullet went in my neck and came out in my mouth," he said. "I chewed on the bullet a bit, then spit it out. ... It didn't knock me out."

The robbers were apprehended, and life went on for Heavy after a stay in the hospital.

Mr. Clayton was the youngest of the eight children in his family.

"He was the baby; he did what he wanted to do," said his sister-in-law Dorothy Clayton of Cedar Hill.

Born in the former Florence Hill community south of Grand Prairie, Mr. Clayton moved with his family to Cedar Hill when he was 11 or 12 years old, his sister-in-law said.

He never learned to read, but he knew math for calculating scrap transactions, friends said.

Mr. Clayton held a number of jobs before settling into his role as the beloved but regulation-ignoring junkman.

Mr. Franke said conflicts with Heavy grew along with Cedar Hill.

"The sad part about it was that as the town was growing around him, having a junk business just didn't work quite the same way," he said. "The city had to become involved from time to time."

Mr. Clayton inherited a home on Hickerson Street from his mother. His property became home to his junk business, which was a problem for the city and neighbors.

The house fell into disrepair and was set afire by what friends say was an adolescent who liked to torment Mr. Clayton. He rebounded by living in a camper on the property until 2005, when he moved into a nursing home.

G.W. Gorman, a friend of more than 60 years, said Mr. Clayton was an independent person of great physical strength.

"He was always trying to help people; he was good at that," he said. "He was a great fellow."

Mr. Gorman said he once saw Mr. Clayton pick up a flathead V-8 truck engine with the transmission attached and place it in the bed of a truck. But Mr. Clayton used passive cooperation rather than brute force to deal with confrontations with civil authority.

"He was the only guy I know who pretty much had the system his way," said Jan Sorok, a longtime friend.

While many others might not want to be jailed, Mr. Clayton was always willing to do his time, Mr. Sorok said.

"'OK, when do you want me to show up?' " Mr. Clayton would say, Mr. Sorok said.

Mr. Clayton is survived by two brothers, Thomas Clayton of Cedar Creek and Alton R. "Pete" Clayton of Cedar Hill; and two sisters, Willie Mae Justin and Janie Pogue, both of Mesquite.

3 comments:

Zoheb said...

Hi, I happened to come across your blog. I knew Heavy and he was a great guy. He looked a little scary but had a heart of gold.R.I.P

Mr. G said...

Happy New Year, Zoheb -

Thanks for you comment. I just ran into Heavy's obit when I was in Texas and wished I had known him. He sounds like a one-of-a-kind person..

Mr. G

Anonymous said...

I found this blog today, when searching for info and images on Heavy. I'm a 31 year old Hillian, and am planning an illustration in Heavy's honor. He IS a legend, and my search is the proof... 5 years after his passing, and folk he never knew are telling the tale of Edgar "Heavy" Clayton Jr.