Clarkson, Roy Jerome "RJ" Jr.

Chemist Loved Storytelling And Astronomy, And Was A Dedicated Athlete

  • Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Roy Jerome "RJ" Clarkson, Jr.
Roy Jerome "RJ" Clarkson, Jr.

Roy Jerome Clarkson Jr (RJ) of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, passed peacefully into glory on December 3, 2023, at the age of 76.

He was born on June 28, 1947, in Chattanooga, to parents Roy J. Clarkson, Sr. and Elizabeth McCaffrey Clarkson.

RJ grew up in East Ridge and attended Anna B. Lacey Elementary and McCallie School (class of 1965). He remained in close contact with his fellow McCallie graduates until the end of his life.
RJ met and married his wife, Janet Woodard Clarkson (m. Dec 19, 1970), while attending Auburn University. He graduated from Auburn with a B.S. in Chemistry and a M.S. in Physical Chemistry. He worked as a research scientist at Southern Company in Birmingham, Al., for 29 years, overseeing various pollution control projects and traveling to power plants throughout the Southeast where he worked to reduce emissions.

A great storyteller, RJ delighted his children and grandchildren with his tales of growing up in East Ridge: his antics with younger sister Genie, his pride in older brother Larry’s work on rockets and tanks, singing in the Chattanooga Boys Choir, playing handbells at First-Centenary Methodist Church, taking ballroom lessons at Mrs. Howell’s Dance Studio, playing baseball in his backyard (which served as the neighborhood diamond), riding his bike and flexie with his friends, and learning to clean his rifle and press his uniform at McCallie School.

In elementary school science club, RJ discovered what would become a lifelong love for astronomy and eventually persuaded his father to get him his first telescope. As an adult, he added some much larger telescopes to his collection and enjoyed taking them out so family and friends could share in the astronomical wonders of God’s creation. He was a long-time subscriber to Sky and Telescope and would sometimes wake up the household at 3:00 am to watch a meteor shower, an eclipse, or some other celestial happening. RJ’s love of nature was reflected in his extensive and meticulously-labeled rock and mineral collection, knowledge of tree names, and the habit of whistling back to birds

RJ was a disciplined and dedicated athlete throughout his life. He ran cross country and played baseball at McCallie and would excitedly recount hitting a home run in a game against Baylor School. As an avid runner, RJ was the kind of father who would take the whole family to the running track early on a Saturday morning for family exercise, or insist on a long family hike after holiday feasts. He was a devoted fan of McCallie and Auburn athletics and of the athletic exploits of his four children, who all played soccer, often on teams that he coached. He did fifty pushups a day for much of his life. More recently, when running was difficult, he would still regularly go for walks around the neighborhood.

RJ actually enjoyed mowing and working out in the yard and wanted everyone to admire the results. And he also embarked on building projects around the home and with friends. He constructed some impressive decks, swing sets, and even a bridge.

After residing in Alabama for more than 40 years, RJ and Janet returned in 2016 to the Chattanooga area. They moved to Signal Mountain, to the same street as Janet’s childhood home. This was coincidentally the same street where RJ as a teenager had attended Wednesday night youth group. Amazingly, he and Janet did not meet until Auburn.

RJ enjoyed staying active in his community. Wherever he lived, RJ participated faithfully in church. He sang in the choir, played on church sport teams, served as an elder, ministered with his wife in nursing homes, and went on several short-term missions trips. An experience that brought him great joy was visiting Israel and walking where Jesus walked. In a booklet of stories he penned for his family in 1990, RJ wrote: “Although I dedicated my life to Christ on more than one occasion, there was never a time when I said, ‘I didn’t know Christ, but now I do.’ It seems that my walk has been since the beginning. I am not perfect, but by the Grace of God I am complete. I have accepted the Gift.”

RJ is survived by his wife Janet and four children: Roy Clarkson, Kris Clarkson (Katie), Kelly Okie (Tom), Corrie Clarkson, and eight grandchildren: Callan, Ronan, Lillie, Aida, Benjamin, Eliza, Liam, and Mary Willow. He is also survived by his brother Larry Clarkson. He was preceded in death by his sister Genie Clarkson Kennamer.

A family graveside service will be held at Chattanooga Memorial Park.

The Memorial Celebration will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16, in Marr Chapel at Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church, 612 James Blvd., Signal Mountain, Tn. 37377.(The same chapel where he married Janet 53 years ago!)

In lieu of flowers, you may send a tax deductible donation to one the following:

The Samaritan's Purse at www.samaritanspurse.org

Alzheimer's Association at www.alz.org

or to RJ's daughter's mission work at www.rhema.org/alumni/clarkson

Please share your thoughts and memories online at www.ChattanoogaNorthChapel.com

Arrangements are by Chattanooga Funeral Home, North Chapel, 5401 Highway 153, Hixson, Tn. 37343.

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