Dr. Gordon Clanton
1942 - 2021
San Diego State professor and long-time Del Mar Times columnist Gordon Clanton died July 13, 2021 at age 79. He moved to Del Mar in 1974 and quickly became involved in the community and its intriguing politics.
Gordon grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was the first of his family to go to college. He received the BA in chemistry from Louisiana State University (1964), the MDiv from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (1967), and the PhD from the Graduate Theological Union and the University of California, Berkeley (1973). He taught in the Religion Department at Rutgers University. Beginning in 1975, he taught in the Sociology Department at San Diego State University until his retirement in 2008.
Dr. Clanton always said he was lucky in his teachers. He was a student of Robert N. Bellah (at Berkeley) and of Peter L. Berger (with whom he taught at Rutgers). He was perhaps the only sociologist who studied with both of these giants.
A pioneer in the sociology of emotions, Dr. Clanton was a founding member in 1985 of the ASA Section on Emotions. His 1977 book Jealousy with Lynn G. Smith, is still in print, a standard reference work on this topic, and an early contribution to the sociology of emotions.
Dr. Clanton was active in the American and the Pacific Sociological Associations. He was a founding member of the California Sociological Association, serving as president in 1999. He also was president in 1980 of the San Diego Society for Sex Therapy and Education and a fellow since 1971 of the Society for Values in Higher Education, an interdisciplinary association of professors and others committed to the ideal of liberal arts education
Dr. Clanton was a committed teacher who loved his job. He put his own stamp on courses including Sociology of Religion, American Society and Institutions, Minority Group Relations, and his pioneering signature course, Love, Jealousy, and Envy: The Sociology of Emotions. He stirred and engaged his students, and he enjoyed and learned from them. He set the bar high and coached his students to do more and better. He won his department’s Outstanding Faculty Award in 2004.
After retiring from full-time teaching at San Diego State in 2008, Dr. Clanton devoted himself to his scholarly writing, to his column for local newspapers, and to the occasional op-ed. He liked to quote his mentor Bob Bellah who told him from experience, “Gordon, when you are retired you will be busier than ever.”
Away from the university, Dr. Clanton was deeply engaged in the politics and community affairs of Del Mar and San Diego. Since the 1980s he wrote hundreds of opinion pieces for local newspapers as a columnist for the Blade-Citizen, the North County Times, and, since 2009, the Del Mar Times and sister papers in Solana Beach, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, and Carmel Valley.
Dr. Clanton was a member of the City Club of San Diego, the Del Mar Historical Society, and the LSU/San Diego Alumni Association. He served for many years as vice-president for programs for the Rancho Santa Fe Democratic Club. He also served on the board of Del Mar Community Connections, a local volunteer-driven non-profit that provides supportive services for seniors.
Gordon will be deeply missed by the Board, staff, and clients of Del Mar Community Connections. We will especially miss his sharp wit and insight, and his deep empathy and respect for others.
At Gordon's request, there will be no service to memorialize him.