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Alfred Baker founded the town in 1868 when Chilton County was created. Before 1868, Clanton was called the "Goose Pond" community. Baker County was renamed Chilton County, and the community known as "Goose Pond", became the Town of Clanton. Clanton was established on April 23rd, 1873 and named after General James H. Clanton. He was a brigadier with the Confederate States Army. Baker was elected the first mayor of the city.
Nearby Lay Lake Dam was built, and Mitchell Dam was completed. This dam brought economic benefits to the region. More than 100 years ago, the peach industry in Chilton County was started by immigrants. The peach industry is now the top industry in Chilton County. It has brought fame and millions to the local economy. Clanton built a water tower shaped like a peach to serve as a landmark for motorists traveling along Interstate 65.
Ida B., an early civil rights activist, was born in 1891. Wells used a photograph postcard of a Clanton lynching to inform the white public about the atrocities committed against blacks in 1891.
Clanton was home to a small German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.