Jesse A. 'Tony' Clements

Jesse A. 'Tony' Clements

CHAMPAIGN – Jesse A. "Tony" Clements, 68, of Champaign passed away peacefully on Friday (June 9, 2017) at his home with the loving support of family and friends.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 15, at Owens Funeral Home, 101 N. Elm St., Champaign.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Stone Creek Church, 2502 S. Race St., Urbana.

Burial will follow services at Roselawn Cemetery in Champaign.

Tony was born on Feb. 24, 1949, in Raleigh, N.C., the son of Jesse Jr. and Doris Baugh Clements.

Tony is survived by his companion, Debbie Shilts; his sister Deborah Blanks, nephew Geraud Blanks (Element Everest) and great-niece Karma Blanks of Milwaukee; stepmother, Lois Clements of Raleigh, N.C.; aunt, Cornelia Jane Jackson Liggins of Fort Washington, Md.; and uncle, Robert Jackson of the Philippines.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

At the age of 18, Tony relocated to Champaign to attend the University of Illinois, earning bachelor's and master's degrees. A talented athlete, he participated on the UI basketball team during his freshmen year. Remarkably, he transitioned to become a defensive player on the Illinois football team during his remaining college years.

While working on his graduate degree, Tony joined the Division of Campus Recreation at the university where he remained for 38 years. In 1979, he was named its director, one of the first black men to hold that position at a major university in the United States. He also served as the official scorekeeper for the UI for 30 years.

Tony was active in the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA), having served as president of that organization in 1988-89. He was presented the association's most prestigious recognition, the NIRSA Honor Award, in 1996.

In 2002, Tony won the UI Chancellor's Academic Professional Excellence Award in acknowledgment of his administrative performance on behalf of the UI.

In 2003, Tony was named the recipient of the Monsignor Edward J. Duncan Service Award. This award is presented annually to a UI "football letterman" who has displayed exemplary dedication to his community, state and country. Former winners of the award include Tim McCarthy, Tony Eason and Dick Butkus.

Upon his retirement, Tony was appointed as a board member of the United Way of Champaign County (UWCC). During his time with the United Way, he performed duties as the co-chair of the Annual Campaign, co-chair of the Pillar Committee and co-chair of the Marketing Committee. He also served as a member of the UWCC's executive committee. In 2012, Tony was the UWCC interim CEO.

In January of 2014, Tony was honored as winner of a National Philanthropy Association award as an Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser. He was also chosen to join the board of the Marajen Stevick Foundation. The Marajen Stevick Foundation is a non-profit organization that distributes grants through the East Central Illinois Community Foundation and the UI Foundation.

In May 2017, Tony was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a Friend of Basketball.

On a lighter side, one of Tony's favorite pastimes was performing standup comedy. He produced his own annual comedy show, The Clements Comedy Cafe, from 1990 through 2014. Throughout the 25 years, the Comedy Cafe supported a number of social service organizations, including the East Central Illinois Foodbank, the C-U Schools Foundation and the Champaign Parks Foundation.

Tony also performed with comedian Sinbad, emceed shows for Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, and had been the opening act for Jerry Butler and Ray Charles. In 1998, Tony was asked to be the warm-up act when President Clinton and Vice President Gore visited the UI.

Although Clements achieved much success, his highest priority was his relationships with family, friends and community.

Memorials may be made to the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club, Carle Center for Philanthropy for Neuroscience Research, or the University of Illinois Foundation for the Clements Fund at the Division of Campus Recreation.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at

pollymoore wrote on June 13, 2017 at 10:06 am

Debbie - so sorry to read about Tony's passing - just wanted you to know you are in my thoughts.

love Polly Pfoff Moore