The Real Story Behind That Mr. Rogers And Officer Clemmons Meme
A meme has been going around of an episode of Mr. Rogers where he shares a pool with a black police officer. The story is heartwarming but a little different than the one seen on the meme. According to the meme,
"In 1969, when black citizens were still not allowed to swim in community pools alongside white people, Mr. Rogers invited a black police officer on the show and asked him to join in and cool his feet in a small plastic pool, breaking a well-known color barrier"
The photo began to make rounds online, with many applauding Fred Rogers for his seemingly innocent yet revolutionary action. While the story is similar, the actual details of Mr. Rogers and Officer Clemmons is a bit different. Officer Clemmons is really actor Dr. Francois Clemmons, a trained opera singer and mentee to Fred Rogers. The episode in question aired on May 9, 1969, a tumultuous time in American history. While segregation wasn't legal, black Americans still weren't thought of as equal to whites Americans. This was especially evident at community pools, where black Americans were not welcomed by whites. This was known throughout the country and Rogers told Clemmons he thought it was "ridiculous." Dr. Clemmons discussed the scene in the 2018 movie "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"
On a hot summer day, Mr. Rogers was cooling his feet off in a kiddie pool, when Officer Clemmons stops by and Rogers offers to share the pool with him. The policeman at first declines saying he doesn't have a towel but Rogers offers his for him to use. The two men cool their feet, and when Officer Clemmons leaves he uses the towel to dry his feet. After, Rogers used the same towel to dry his feet. Th scene wasn't long and the actions seemed innocent but it wasn't something children would normally see in their neighborhood, only in Mr. Rogers. Twenty-four years later in 1993, Rogers and Officer Clemmons reenacted the scene during Clemmons final appearance on the children's television show. This time, Mr. Rogers even helped the black police officer dry his feet off with his towel. The scenes were small but left a lasting impact on children around the nation, but especially on Francois Clemmons. The actor said he looked at Rogers as a surrogate father and knew he accepted him for who he is. Read more about their heartwarming relation on the Biography website.