Clay L. Pedigo passed away in his sleep on May 7, 2019 in his home at Beau Ridge in Ridgeland, Mississippi. He lived a full, vibrant, and honorable life, invariably punctuated by laughter and unflinching optimism. He was a survivor of both prostate cancer and bladder cancer, open heart surgery, and diabetes. In his waning years, he struggled with dementia in addition to the rigors of aging. He was 84 years old.
Clay was born in Lawton, Oklahoma on November 28, 1934, the son of Mr. and Mrs. J.H. and Harriet Pedigo. He grew up in Clinton, OK and graduated from Clinton High School in 1953, where he was an enthusiastic basketball and track athlete. He often rattled off stories of his time in Clinton, which included as much hunting & fishing as possible, swimming & diving at the city pool, playing war with his best friends as World War II transpired, as well as raising a pet duck and two pet crows, in addition to the family parakeet. After graduating from high school, Clay enrolled at the University of Miami with plans to study marine biology. Alas, he couldn’t find suitable employment to remain, so he returned to his home state and enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, where he played on the freshman basketball team.
After two years at OU, he entered the Navy and sailed around the world twice on two different aircraft carriers, the USS Princeton and the USS Essex. As a navigator, Clay served on the bridge of Essex. He enjoyed being part of the ship’s nerve center, having access to its routes and logs, and working directly with the Captain.
Clay truly loved the wide blue ocean. He enjoyed telling stories about his time at sea and the places he visited, like Rome, Thailand, Hiroshima, and Greece, about crossing the equator for the first time, and about rounding the cape of South Africa and sailing across the international dateline twice. After four years of service, he was honorably discharged from the Navy and returned to the University of Oklahoma, where he went on to receive his Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in 1961.
After college, Clay sold mainframe computers for the Burroughs Corporation in Oklahoma City where he met his future wife, Velta Rae Walker. Shortly after learning of an opportunity to open his own business, Clay married Velta in 1967 and the couple moved to Jackson, MS, where he and a business partner opened a heavy equipment dealership in nearby Pearl.
Eventually called Pedigo Equipment Corporation, the business would sustain the Pedigo family throughout the 1970s, a decade that culminated with the Jackson area’s Great Easter Flood of 1979. The Pedigo home’s entire floorplan was flooded, and Clay spent the entire summer making the house livable again, only sometimes enlisting the aid of a carpenter or extra handyman.
After many years of success, Clay sold Pedigo Equipment in 1983 and obtained his real estate license, so he could sell real estate while he took night classes at the Jackson School of Law and later Mississippi College School of Law. He was proud to receive his law degree, and promptly opened a private law practice. Clay loved his second career, and enjoyed practicing law until his eventual retirement in May 2017. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Ronald Pedigo of Oklahoma City, OK, and his wife, Velta. He is survived by his two children, Jeff (Taylor) of Jackson, MS and Scott (Lulu) of Madison, MS, two grandchildren, Walker and Elizabeth Pedigo, his sister Jocile Leyerly of Oklahoma City, OK, and his faithful feline friend Pepper. Special thanks are due the dedicated staff at Beau Ridge, with support from Covenant Care and Compassus, as well as independent caregiver Katie Williams.
Clay pursued many interests. He obtained his pilot’s license after college, which gave him the freedom to attend numerous Oklahoma Sooner sporting events, fly Velta to Las Vegas for the couple’s honeymoon, and treat the family to quick trips to different beaches along the Gulf Coast virtually every summer. He was an avid bridge player during the game’s heyday, and also enjoyed hunting, fishing, and golf. He was an avid reader of diverse subjects and loved watching basketball, football, and golf on TV and his grandchildren’s many activities, as well as attending large musical productions when he had the opportunity. He was known by many for cracking ridiculously corny jokes if he could get past his own laughter before the telling. He also loved magic, occasionally wowing guests with the odd card trick. He and Velta were members of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS for many years. He was also a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Rankin County. He also had various side businesses over the years, which included publishing a gaming law periodical and even a sports comic strip, called the Jocks, that ran in a few papers for a few years.
A small family service was held to remember and celebrate Clay’s life. Clay touched the lives of many and will be dearly missed. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the American Alzheimer’s Association.