James Robert Clayton, known to everyone as Bob, was born in 1934. He was working for the Social Services Agency in 1981 when a man seeking help walked into his office suffering from a new and unknown malady. The man was one of the first county residents with AIDS. For the rest of his life, Clayton would be at the forefront of the Santa Clara County effort to deal with the disease and care for its patients.
In 1985, Clayton opened his home as the first AIDS residence in the county. In March of that year he helped form a weekly support group for AIDS patients that initially called itself “Freedom from Fear.” By January 1986, that group had incorporated as a nonprofit and become the Aris Project.
In 1994, Clayton received national recognition when he was presented with the Family AIDS Network’s National AIDS Caregiver Award. His nomination announcement noted that “Bob cries easily, never afraid to share his grief with other caregivers. Yet, he talks about the pain he carries each day as a ‘small price to pay’ for the rewards he has found reaching out to other people in need. Bob talks about each of the people he has been a caregiver for as a proud parent talks about their child- with love and unconditional acceptance.”
One of the highlights of his life came in 1996 when he carried the Olympic torch in San Jose as it made its way to Atlanta.
At the time of his death in 2003, Clayton was serving as interim director of ARIS.