Dianne White Clatto (1938-2015)

Missouri counties
Missouri counties
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Pioneering T.V. Broadcaster Dianne White Clatto, born Dianne Elizabeth Johnson on December 28, 1938, in St. Louis, Missouri, was the only child of Milton Johnson and Nettie Johnson. Growing up in north St. Louis, Dianne a child, studied piano and classical ballet Pointe technique. She completed her education at the historic Charles Sumner High School in 1956, the oldest segregated high school for African Americans in St. Louis, where she was active in the school’s choral ensemble.

In 1959, Dianne White Clatto made history. She not only became the first Black student to earn a Bachelor of Arts in psychiatric social work from the University of Missouri at Columbia, but she also became the first African American fashion model for the St. Louis department stores Baer & Fuller, Stix, and Saks Fifth Avenue. In 1960, after an audition encouraged by her high school music teacher with the St. Louis bandleader and pianist Russ David Orchestra, Clatto gave an impromptu live performance singing “I Enjoy Being a Girl” and “How About You” on the Admiral, a Mississippi River showboat.

In 1960, Clatto’s career took an unexpected turn when she was offered a position as an on-air host for a 90-minute live radio show aired on St. Louis and Memphis stations. She continued to break barriers, becoming the first full-time African American television weathercaster in the United States in 1962 on St. Louis’s KSD-TV (now KSDK News Channel 5). Clatto worked there for 25 years, reporting local weather and occasionally anchoring the news. She also hosted a three-hour talk show at KBDY, interviewing personalities like Pearl Bailey, Lou Gossett Jr., Lena Horne, and Paul Newman. She later hosted a four-hour show on KXOK talk radio, becoming one of the first African Americans involved in that emerging media format.

Dianne White Clatto was earning $40,000 a year when, at the age of 47, she was abruptly dismissed from KSDK in 1986. She responded by filing a $6 million suit in the U.S. District Court in St. Louis, charging the station with harassment and age discrimination. She won the case, receiving a $110,000 settlement. By filing the case, Clatto made history again as one of the first television personalities to successfully sue her former employer for age discrimination.

Clatto was married three times. She and her last spouse, John Clatto, parented and reared their son, John “Chip” Clatto.

Throughout her career, Clatto’s contributions were recognized and celebrated. She was inducted into the St. Louis Media History Hall of Fame and the Missouri Hall of Fame, prestigious honors that underscored her significant contributions to the media industry. She was also honored by the Jewish Community Association and the Greater Louis Association of Black Journalists.

Dianne White Clatto, who helped raise bonds to build St. Louis’s iconic Gateway Arch and opened 11 Girls Clubs through the Greater St. Louis area, died on May 4, 2015, of natural causes at the McCormack House Retirement Center in St. Louis, Missouri. She was 76.