Cover photo for Clarence H. O’Neal Jr.'s Obituary
Clarence H. O’Neal Jr. Profile Photo

Clarence H. O’Neal Jr.

September 27, 1923 — November 27, 2020

Clarence H. O’Neal Jr.

September 27, 1923 – November 27, 2020

O’Neal, Jr, Clarence H., of North Las Vegas, NV, went home to be with the Lord, on Friday November 27, 2020.  He died peacefully at home with his family by his side.  In accordance with his wishes Clarence will be cremated with arrangements by Inspired Life Cremations of Las Vegas, NV.  Due to present public health concerns a Memorial Service Celebrating the Life of Mr. Clarence H. O’Neal, Jr. will be held via Zoom on December 13, 2020 at 1000am PST / 100pm EST.  A future in person service will be held in 2021 so that Clarence may receive his full military honors as a World War II Veteran and be interned at a location to be determined.

Clarence was born September 27, 1923 in Columbus, Georgia to Clarence Henry O’Neal, Sr and Annie Lee O’Neal (Carlton).  His father was a career employee of the US Railroad in Columbus and dedicated Masonic Lodge member and his mother was a housekeeper, seamstress and owner of a Beauty Salon the Do Drop Inn.  He was the 3rd oldest child having 5 sisters and 1 brother.  Clarence was dedicated to family at an early age working for his mother and helping to raise and provide for his younger siblings and helping his father on home projects and work outside of the railroad.  He attended Spencer High School where he excelled in his favorite sport, football and earned the nickname “Red” O’Neal because of his complexion and fiery defensive play as a defensive end.  After graduating from Spencer high school he took up the trade of Sheet Metal mechanics and left Columbus to work in a foundry in New Britain, Connecticut.  There, in May of 1943 he was drafted to serve in the US Navy during World War II.  

In the Navy Clarence was a Seaman 1st class assigned to a Logistics Support company stationed aboard several ships during wartime.  These unsung heroes worked 24/7 tireless hours loading and unloading supplies to Islands like Okinawa and Iwo Jima under heavy Japanese air attack and artillery fire from bunkers on land also braving typhoons and heavy sea storms.  They were the backbone keeping the soldiers fighting on and occupying those islands supplied with food, weapons, ammunition and all things needed to defeat Japan.  Clarence was able to witness, in the faint distance, the mushroom clouds of the nuclear strikes that brought about the surrender of Japan and eventual end of World War II.  Dad had many stories of his fellow African American shipmates like “Shine” Isaac Coleman who served beside him in his segregated work crew on the Pacific ocean and on the islands.

Upon his discharge Clarence came home to Columbus, Georgia where he attended Fort Valley State College for a short time where his Great Uncle the Reverend Lee O’Neal was a founder.  After participating in a Civil Rights protest he was kicked out of college as his GI Bill did not permit him to do so.  He worked on the railroad briefly with his Dad before picking up the trade of brick masonry with his friends “Pop” Carter and the Pope brothers who took him in as an apprentice.  His career as a Journeyman “brick-layer” took him all over the U.S. working on various commercial and residential construction projects, some of which still stand today.  He was a pioneer working as a skilled tradesman in a segregated America where he sometimes encountered resistance from other contractors who refused to work with a Black man.  It was his skill and perseverance and his membership in the Brotherhood of Masonry that kept him pushing forward “willing to be tried, never denied and ready to be tried again” and always accepted by the decision-makers that really made a difference no matter where he travelled.  He worked in Chicago, Illinois, Detroit, MI, Columbus, Georgia, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and many other places throughout the East coast and midwest including Flint, Michigan where he eventually settled.   

Although he came to Flint, Michigan laying bricks as one of its first Black independent contractors helping build that city as it grew with the auto industry he was eventually contracted into General Motors as a brick mason repairing and maintaining the fire bricks of the furnaces inside those automobile plants.  Those contract employees were eventually made full-time skilled trades employees for General Motors. He made his career at General Motors Truck and Bus as a forklift driver, affectionately known as “Smokey” (due to his pipes and cigars).  Clarence  retired from GM after 33 years of service in 1986 and was blessed to live a retired life for 34 years.  During his retirement, Clarence helped establish several small businesses within the community with his son Clarence III, wife Pearlene and several young up and coming community leaders. These included: Boomin Records a record label, record store and recording studio, a mobile communications company, an insurance school and a skilled trades training and staffing company for the Automotive industry.

Clarence met the love of his life Pearlene O’Neal (Hobson) in 1964 and married her August 20, 1965.  She worked diligently alongside her husband as a Special Needs teacher in the Flint Community Schools for 40 years.  In 2006 Clarence and Pearlene migrated from Flint, MI, to Las Vegas, Nevada with their only son Clarence III (wife Tara), grandkids (Caleb, Cydnie and Clarence IV), and eventually great granddaughter A’mina where he was a support system for his immediate family sharing his great wisdom, encouragement, and knowledge.

Clarence was a proud union member of UAW Local 598 in Flint, Michigan.  He was a member of the American Legion of Veterans of Foreign War and a member of the Optimist Club.  Clarence was a P H A Free and Accepted Mason and was a Charter Member of Christ the Liberator Presbyterian Church in Flint where he laid the Cornerstone for the building and sang in the choir.  Clarence was an original member of the Courtland Center Walkers where he and many retired community members walked for exercise and fellowship in the mornings daily before the mall opened.  In Las Vegas he attended Canyon Ridge Christian Church.  His hobbies included walking, word search puzzles and gardening which he always had a “green thumb”.

Clarence Henry O’Neal, Jr is survived by His wife Pearlene, Son Clarence III , daughter in law Tara, 2 Grandsons Caleb and Clarence IV, 1 granddaughter Cydnie, and 1 great granddaughter A’mina (all of Las Vegas, NV).  He is also survived by 2 sisters Betty Phillips( Columbus, GA) and Barbara St. John (St. Louis, MO), brother in Law Fess Hobson (Flint, MI), Sister in laws Laurine Harold (Flint, MI), and Clara Davis (Monroe, LA).  He leaves behind a host of nieces, nephews and their families including special niece and nephew Ricky and Jackie Mills who retired to Las Vegas and enjoyed the last decade with Clarence as near neighbors and close family.  

Clarence was preceded in death by: his brother John O’Neal (Flint), his sisters Constance Williams (Chicago), Thelma, and Annie Laura Bussey (Columbus, GA), brothers and sisters in law Gertie Hobson (Flint), Reabie and Guster Mitchell (Chicago), Lovie and Collie Mills (Chicago), Essie Hobson (Flint), John L and Georgia Hobson (Flint), and great grandson Antwoine Wilson Jr. (Las Vegas)

By trade he was a builder of bricks and Masonry, but in life he was a builder of Men and Hearts.

“Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” KJV

***The O’Neal family would like to acknowledge the compassionate caregiving provided by Paula, Marilyn and Ryan (Aviant Home Hospice), Mark, Corrie, and Jamel (Palmeira Home Healthcare), Zirlean, Ella and Anna “Banana”.  You all made Dads journey a little easier and his last days a little brighter…Thank You.

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