Hail to the king, baby. Sons Of Anarchy has always been thought of as Hamlet On Harleys. The show’s version of Claudius would then have to be Clarence Clay Morrow. For nearly the entire run of the show, he and his past constantly loomed as a shadowy presence on the Jax and the Club’s entire future. As the Tony Soprano of biker club culture, Clay had a morbid sense of family and honor. Usually to horrifying results that always led to the ultimate conclusion - the guy was only looking after number one.
The character was originally slated to be played by Scott Glenn. When that didn’t work out, Ron Perlman was cast instead. Perlman and his perfectly squared head fit right into Clay and only helped to make him the big scary biker dude that Glenn just didn’t look like at all (based on pictures). Besides looming dread, Perlman was also able to make you feel for the guy, even as he was plotting to take down just about everyone closest around him. Clay could be a tender man who loved his wife, but he was also a cold criminal, and sometimes he was able to be both in the same scene.
He did just about all he could to set himself up financially for life and it wound up tearing down just about every one of his friend John Teller’s ideas and ideologies for the club. What was the former president of SAMCRO doing the show started.
Here are 20 Things Clay Did Before Season One Of Sons Of Anarchy.
When the Club first formed, John Teller had the notion to be the opposite of other violent biker clubs. He wanted the Sons to be more like a hippie commune and less like a group of vicious gang members. Clay saw right through that ideal and felt there was no way that would ever bring him closer to his goals.
It was Clay that more or less single-handedly took the reins of the Club even as John was still its president. He coopted many decisions that would bring the Sons Of Anarchy careening down a violent history instead of the peaceful existence the Club was first conceived of.
Unlike a lot of members of the Club, Clay wasn’t born in Charming. He was born in 1949 in an unknown city. However, like a lot of drifters, he made his way to California and had laid down roots in Charming, where he had been living for the past thirty years or so.
Wherever he did grow up could explain a lot about a man and his motivations. Wherever the former Pres grew up must’ve been a terrible place to have born a man with such sociopathic tendencies. The calm town of Charming wasn’t able to help Clay stay on the straight and narrow.
A key part of the show’s third season was when the Club traveled to Ireland and meet up with their brothers in Belfast. We’re introduced to the entire chapter on the Emerald Isle - SAMBEL.
The two clubs come together to try and find Jax’s son and Clay’s grandson, Abel. We’re introduced to a lot of characters and some of the groundwork that John, Keith McGee, and Clay laid down years ago when the crew headed to Ireland to start the Chapter.
Whether he planned it this way or not, when Clay, John, and McGee set up shop in Ireland it would help SAMCRO establish their ties to the Real IRA. That relationship helps Clay get the Sons gun trafficking up and running, establishing the Clubs’ path to the dark side.
That partnership established a pipeline right to guns. But once it turned sour, SAMCRO had to not only rescue Abel, but deal with Jimmy O, get vengeance for Chibs, and stop a renegade ATF agent Stahl all in one fell swoop.
Lowell Harland, Sr. was John Teller’s personal mechanic, and he was the only person John trusted to work on his bike. He disappeared a week after John’s takedown. No one gave Harland missing a second thought due to his past of substance and domestic issues.
But Piney wasn’t so sure and began to connect the dots between Lowell’s disappearance and John’s passing. According to Gemma, it was, in fact, Clay who offered Lowell a lot of money to tamper with John’s bike and then he eliminated him to keep the secret.
John Teller founded the Sons and hoped they’d be a group of men who could protect the community and hold themselves to a higher standard than your typical outlaw biker gang. He fell hard for Genma Teller. His best friend, Clay did too. Once Clay and Gemma began shacking up, their desires for the Club took hold.
They conspired to do the unthinkable - take down the founder of the Club. Their friend, lover, and leader. John was an idealist who wanted peace. Clay wanted money. There was no place for John in Clay’s world anymore.
Because Clay is so benevolent, after he put three bullets in Harland Lowell Sr.’s skull, he took in his boy and helped to raise him right; whatever right means to Clay. While he was never an official member of the club, you could see him in early episodes working at the Teller-Morrow.
Harland Jr. like his father had his own demons to struggle with. Both Stahl and Hale tried to put doubt in Harland’s head about the nature of how his dad passed away. Clay eventually did tell him the truth - that he did eliminate his dad, for being a rat and a bad father.
When the series begins, Gemma and Clay are knee-deep in one another and have been for years. It was actually kind of touching at first to see two tough as nails outlaws in so much love. Until we all learn the nature of how their union started.
Between their talks and John’s book, we all came to learn that they started seeing one another. Even worse than that, they conspired and were successful in taking down John and taking over leadership and direction of the Club.
When Sons Of Anarchy first started, the Club is not only fully established in Charming. There are chapters all over the world. Over the course of the show, we’d meet their crew in Ireland (SAMBEL), Tucson (SAMTAZ), Nomads, and all points in between. SAMCRO’s network seemingly never ends.
That’s largely in part to the mythical “First 9.” Clay was part of this illustrious founding group of bikers that were united by John Teller to be a different kind of motorcycle club. Unfortunately, Clay would take it down a completely different direction.
Clay Morrow has been running the show for the Sons for a little over a decade since John Teller’s passing. He shored up and consolidated all of SAMCRO’s allies to help his gun running and protection businesses.
A power grab this big is mafia-level, Machiavellian genius. It’s never stated that Clay planned all of this out. But if he did, then he was far more a sadistic character than he was given credit for. John’s elimination, deals with the IRA and various other clubs would take a lot of cajoling and conniving that he isn’t given a lot of credit for, until it’s too late.
Here’s a theory that some fans of Sons Of Anarchy have - Jax isn’t Clay’s stepson; he’s his son. As evidenced by the first season of the series, Clay and Jax’s friendship had long been a copacetic one that was held together by their love for Genma. However, that wouldn’t have meant it wasn’t at times contentious.
The fan theory is based on the fact that at one point in the series, if only for a split second we can see Thomas’ birth certificate. Thomas is Jax’s younger brother that passed away. However, we never see Jax’s, nor is it mentioned.
Historically, one of the contributing factors to the rise of outlaw motorcycle clubs was that, a lot of these men were war veterans who returned home to nothing. No jobs, no pension, nothing to show for their noble sacrifice. They also had to come back and follow civilian laws instead of the ones they had established in wartime.
The Sons were no different. All of the First 9 served prior to starting the club. Except for Clay. He enlisted after stating the club and served in the tail end of Vietnam.
Four of the First 9 (John, Piney, Lenny, and McGee) all served in the military during Vietnam. When they came home, they started the Sons. Once Clay did enlist, he literally jumped right in. He served in Vietnam as an Airborne Paratrooper from 1967-1972.
When he came home, he did what a lot of veterans do. He got himself inked up to commemorate his time in the war. While several of the other Sons have ink all over the bodies, Clay is a little more of a traditionalist in that sense - his tats are just on his arms.
Throughout the show, SAMCRO makes enemies and frenemies with all sorts outlaw clubs, gangs, mobs, and law enforcement. Prior to the series beginning was all out with war with Mayans MC. That crew and the Sons fought over all sorts of turf and territories.
As one of the men of mayhem, Clay waged war with the Mayans as well. The war led to a lot of bodies until the two clubs found a way to coexist. That tenuous new treaty eventually led the Mayans to getting their own show.
Despite what John Teller, Piney, and the rest of the First 9 might have wanted the Sons Of Anarchy to be in the beginning, Clay took the Club down a dark road. He set up all kinds of criminal connections to help achieve his own personal dreams. He was also proud of that - he never once hid the fact or toned down that he was an outlaw biker.
Being an outlaw, he clearly had done time at various points in his life. While not much was stated about it on the series, Clay undoubtedly served time on more than one occasion at some point before the series began.
As with most real governing bodies, the Vice President Of The Sons Of Anarchy is the second highest ranking Club member. When the President’s away, they’re responsible for many, if not all Club decisions. When the First 9 started the Sons, Piney was the group’s VP.
But his growing health concerns with emphysema forced Piney to abdicate the position. Clay was appointed next and had served under John until his end. It was here that Clay really started making power moves.
The Sons Of Anarchy was originally started and co-founded by John Teller and Piney Winston. While the original cause of the Club was to be a fairly non-violent commune of some sorts, divergent of what most MCs were. With Clay at the head of the table, everything changed.
Considering he eliminated John and married his widow, Clay would have to do all he could to shore up the entire family to gain trust. Jax had a nostalgic feel for the hippie biker days he never knew. Clay knew he had to do all he could to keep his step-son down the current path of the Son, so he made him VP to try and influence him and teach him to how to lead his way. Needless to say, that didn’t turn out well.
In most MCs, the Sgt. At Arms is akin to the Secretary Of Defense. Most leaders would defer to their knowledge, especially in wartime. While the Vice President is double-tough and not to be messed with, perhaps his most important job is interpreting the bylaws of the charter.
Except for Tig, who was Clay’s Sgt At Arms for so long. Under his direction, Tig did just about every underhanded and dirty thing for the Club when called upon. Most heinously, eliminating Donna when he was trying to take out Opie.
After his stint in Vietnam came to a close, Clay came home, probably to the kind of heroes welcome party only his brothers could’ve thrown for him. Like plenty of veterans returning home, Clay needed a job. So, he and his best friend at the time, John Teller opened up Teller-Morrow Auto Body.
While the mechanic shop was the main source of legitimate income for John, Clay and whichever Club members worked there. However, TM also served as the headquarters for SAMCRO and therefore the entire Club all over the world.
If you can’t ride, you can’t lead. It might sound like a ridiculous rule for an MC that was supposed be a commune. But for a motorcycle club, being able to ride a motorcycle is kind of a prerequisite. It’s unfortunate, no matter how tough the president of an MC is, a disease like degenerative arthritis could derail a leader’s run.
With his hand strength failing throughout the series, at one point, Jax even tied Clay’s hands to his bike and kept his secret. It had been affecting Clay long before the series started.
Can you think of anything else Clay did on Sons of Anarchy before season one? Let us know in the comments!