City native tells students to dream big

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 6, 2010

“Have you ever had to shoot anyone?” or “Have you ever been shot at?” were among questions fired at a Vicksburg native who visited with students Friday afternoon at Vicksburg High School.

Special Agent Clifton Jeffery Jr., a diplomatic security special agent with the U.S. State Department, answered “no” to both questions. He had been invited to speak to Cindy McClung’s and Ed Wong’s government classes. McClung had kept in touch with Jeffery’s mother, Christine, who works for the Vicksburg Warren School District.

“There were three points I wanted to make,” said the 30-year-old, also the son of Clifton Jeffery Sr., “first is realizing your dreams. If you can’t see it, you’ll never reach it. Second is stepping out of your comfort zone, and third is to have a strong work ethic.

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“I was always that kid whose dreams were bigger than I can ever picture,” Jeffery said. “I wished I knew then what I know now.”

After graduating from Warren Central High School in 1997, Jeffery’s big dreams took him to the University of Southern Mississippi. He transferred to Tougaloo College, where he graduated with a bachelor’s in political science. He continued his education at Mississippi College, where he received a law degree in 2006. During that time, he enlisted in the Marine Corps reserves and worked as an administrative specialist, then transferred to the Army Reserves, pursuing a job as a paralegal specialist.

“I always thought that I wanted to be a lawyer,” Jeffery said

He worked for an insurance defense firm after graduation, but realized he wanted to do more. In 2007, he accepted a position with the State Department, the federal entity that helps formulate U.S. foreign policy, and went into a year-long program that included being trained to shoot weapons from a vehicle moving as fast as 80 mph.

Once training was complete, he was assigned to Houston, where he has lived for the past two years with his wife, Beverly Moorehead, and worked as a special agent for visa and passport fraud in Texas.

He has been assigned to protect prominent foreign dignitaries including the Dalai Lama; Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom; and Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan. He has also protected former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her successor, Hillary Clinton, who is ultimately his boss.

“Secretary Rice was an excellent boss,” he said. “She was very chipper.”

But, “there were times when I stood at Secretary Rice’s door at 2 a.m.,” he said. And, “it was pretty boring.”

Jeffery is planning to embark on a year-long assignment in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Asked by one student if he ever felt any fear while working, he answered, “When you work overseas, it is scary because you don’t know what to expect.”

But, “I love my job.”

Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at