Keller High School U.S. History teacher David Clemmons won it all, and on Friday night in a packed lecture hall at the school, he could finally celebrate.
The final “Jeopardy” clue was the U.S. City that made it back into the 50 most populous cities in 2015 after falling out a decade earlier. As his correct answer of “What is New Orleans” was revealed, students, teachers and families cheered and applauded as Clemmons jumped to his feet and sliced his fist through the air in victory.
He traveled to Culver City, Calif., eight weeks ago for two days of tapings, and then had to keep the results secret. As one of 15 teachers featured in Jeopardy’s 2017Teacher Tournament, Clemmons sailed through the first game, clawed his way back in the second game and finished on top in the finals to win $100,000.
Clemmons briefly talked about growing up the son of a rural pastor in Arkansas, not realizing his family was below the poverty line. His parents sacrificed to get “The World Book” encyclopedia set, and Clemmons fell in love with learning.
On Friday night, he told his excited audience to persevere. The Final Jeopardy question seemed tailored to him, he said. Clemmons has been to New Orleans many times on church mission trips and was confident of his answer.
“No matter who you are or where you’re going in life, never, never give up,” he said.
After about 80 minutes of quizzing in the four games over two days, he earned enough to pay for his daughter Carly Clemmons, a KHS junior, to attend college, he said as he choked back tears.
All around him were people who had helped him prepare.
Central High AP U.S. History teacher Steve Patty helped grade his class essays so Clemmons would have more time to prepare for “Jeopardy.”
Patty was a student teacher under Clemmons more than a decade ago and was happy to help his mentor, he said.
“This guy is an incredible teacher,” Patty said. “He’s one of the top U.S. History teachers in DFW.”
His students agreed.
Brian Shin, 17, said, “It’s so awesome. He’s my favorite teacher.”
Wife Cindy Clemmons said the whole process was very long because he took the online test in early 2016. He got called to the Oklahoma City audition while Cindy Clemmons was in Korea for the month of July for work.
“When I got back home, there were trivia cards all over the house,” Cindy Clemmons said.
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Carly Clemmons said she was surprised at how nervous she got during the tapings. In the semi-final game where he went into the red and didn’t lead until after Final Jeopardy, she had to use her inhaler twice. It was hard keeping the secret for the last eight weeks, but she didn’t give in to friends who wanted to know the outcome.
Clemmons thanked everyone at Keller High School who had supported him.
“You get to do this one time in your life, if you’re lucky,” he said. “This has been really cool.”