TV’s ‘Cousin Cliff’ passes away at 79

Published 9:14 pm Tuesday, September 9, 2008

BIRMINGHAM – James Clifton “Cousin Cliff” Holman Jr., a longtime Birmingham television personality, has died after entertaining generations of children across central Alabama. He was 79.

Holman was surrounded by family members when he died from Alzheimer’s disease Monday night at Shepherd’s Grove respite care center in Albertville, his daughter, Lynn Brown, said.

“He was just a good man. I’m going to miss him — corny jokes and everything,” she said.

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For many who grew up in central Alabama starting in the 1950s, “Cousin Cliff” was a legend of local TV.

In an interview earlier this year with The Birmingham News, Everett Holle recalled hiring the Birmingham comedian and magician at WVTM-TV in 1954 to star on a children’s show then known as “The Tip-Top Clubhouse.”

It became “Cousin Cliff’s Clubhouse.”

“He did five shows a week, with 20 or 30 kids a show,” Holle said. “That’s more than 100 kids a week, 5,000 kids a year. Plus their parents. So his fan base was huge.”

In 1969, Holman moved his show to an Anniston station, where it ran for another three years.

In 1990, WBRC-TV in Birmingham brought back a Saturday morning version of “Cousin Cliff’s Clubhouse,” which ran for about three years.

Birmingham musician Bobby Horton grew up watching “Cousin Cliff” and later performed with him.

“One thing that never fails, when anybody mentions Cousin Cliff, they smile. That shows you what kind of joy he brings to people, and brought to people,” he said.

Survivors, besides his daughter, include his wife, Ann; a son, Kyle Holman; and two grandchildren. Another son, Cliff Holman III, died in 2006.

Funeral arrangements are pending.