Clifton Allen “Cliff” Roberson, a gay rights advocate and D.C. government employee for 28 years, died March 30 at the Washington Home and Hospice of complications from brain cancer. He was 60.
Friends and colleagues described Roberson as a resourceful and dedicated public servant who played an important role in helping the city government provide services to all residents, including the LGBT community.
He emerged as one of the first group of gay community appointments in the city government in the early 1980s when then Mayor Marion Barry named him as the mayor’s Ward 5 constituent services coordinator and later as a policy officer in the Executive Office of the Mayor.
He served as president of the D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Men and Women from 1983-1984.
Roberson moved from the mayor’s office to the D.C. Department of Health in the early 1990s, where he served in a number of posts, including with the department’s HIV/AIDS Administration. He most recently served as public health adviser for the department until illness forced him to retire in January of this year.
“Cliff was a generous person who loved people and took great pride in his causes,” said Courtney Williams, a D.C. government colleague and friend. “He was a legend in his own time as well as a community activist.”
Carlene Cheatam, a long-time D.C. government employee and past president of the D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Men and Women, said Roberson played an important role in alerting the GLBT community to city government resources and programs that were supportive of the community.
“He would be sending out information about boards and commissions,” she said. “He would send out information about jobs available. He was always very resourceful and the sweetest guy in the world.”
Roberson was born Aug. 30, 1950 in Sacramento, Calif., and moved to D.C. with his family as a young child. He graduated from D.C.’s Wilson High School and attended Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
“Family and friends were most important to Cliff,” Williams said. “There are many things that we can say about this extraordinary man, but one for sure is that he was truly loved and will be missed by all.”
He is survived by his brother, Anthony Roberson; two nephews, Anthony and Franklin; two aunts, and many special friends, including Williams, Jean Tapscott, and Linda Boyd.
A wake and viewing are scheduled for Thursday, April 7, at the Horton Funeral Home, 600 Kennedy St., N.W., from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. A final viewing is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Friday, April 8, at Michigan Park Christian Church, 1600 Taylor St., N.E., with a memorial service at the church scheduled to begin at noon.