The Dart: Clarence Chatman keeps National Cemetery looking good

Published 12:01 am Monday, April 15, 2019


The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — When The Dart landed on the National Cemetery on Thursday afternoon Clarence Chatman was driving a Kubota tractor and pulling an aerator behind it.

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The weather was sunny and perfect for fertilizing the lawn, and Chatman was punching holes in the beautifully maintained St. Augustine grass in section K of the cemetery.

“You want to aerate the ground first, then come back and spread the fertilizer, so it gets down into the soil.” Chatman said.

Section K and Section D are the oldest parts of the National Cemetery, Chatman said.

“This part was built in 1866 and the first burial was in 1867,” Chatman said. “This section is reserved for veterans and their spouses only.”

Chatman, a native of Chicago, said he has worked at the National Cemetery for approximately 20 years, but he moved to Natchez to live with his grandparents when he was very young.

“I would go to Chicago to visit when I was growing up,” Chatman said, “but I didn’t like it there. I love living in Natchez and the people here.”

Growing up in Natchez and being a large child, Chatman said he played football. Until, he said, his Grandmother put a stop to it, that is.

“She told me to pick out a musical instrument, any one I wanted,” Chatman said. “So I picked the Saxophone.”

Chatman said he became proficient with the tenor sax and the alto sax, so good in fact that he was offered scholarships to five universities.

Chatman said he chose to attend Alcorn State University and after that he joined the U.S. Army.

As a veteran, putting in nine years with the army, Chatman said he was stationed in Saudi Arabia in 1991 for Desert Storm, where he built satellites needed for communication there.

Chatman has two sons, Byron, who is the band director at Hazlehurst High School, and Franklin, who lives and works locally in Natchez.