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Joe Louis Clark was born May 7, 1938, in Rochelle, Georgia. When he was young, the Clark family moved to Newark, New Jersey where he was raised for most of his childhood. After graduating from high school, he went on to attend Seton Hall University. Once he graduated from Seton Hall, he began his career.
Clark served in the military as a U.S. Army Reserve sergeant. He then entered the field of education. He worked as a grade school teacher in Patterson, New Jersey. Simultaneously, he worked as the director of camps and playgrounds in Essex County, New Jersey. He held both positions from 1962 well into the 1970s.
In the late 1970s, Clark accepted a position as the principal of PS 6, a failing elementary school in Patterson. As the principal of PS 6, he was able to bring order and success to the elementary school. The work he put into PS 6 was a precursor to his next task: Eastside High School.
In 1982, Clark left PS 6 to serve as the principal for the notorious Eastside High School. The school was riddled with drugs and gangs and it sat in a district that officials claimed was mostly illiterate. Students fought with each other and their teachers, brandishing weapons on anyone who crossed their paths. Eastside’s disarray, however, inspired Clark to turn the school around.
Clark was not afraid to get tough with unruly students. In order to exhibit power over the students, he would walk around with a 36-inch baseball bat in one hand and a bullhorn in the other. He used the bullhorn in order to be the loudest, dominating voice there. And he was ready to use the bat if need be.
Many students, parents, and faculty members associated with Eastside did not approve of Clark’s methods. Some felt that he was too harsh on the students. However, they could not deny that his methods elicited positive results. Truancy and tardiness reduced and the drug pushers no longer congregated on or around the campus.
While improving Eastside High School, the television show 60 Minutes aired two shows about Clark and all major publications published articles about him. Shortly thereafter, Ronald Regan and his administration showed praise for Clark’s work. He was then offered a job to serve on an educational panel with the White House. Dedicated to Eastside, he declined the offer.
After undergoing two open-heart surgeries, Clark resigned from Eastside High School in 1989. He began lecturing on school management and education reform, as well as drug control measures. Warner Bros. offered him six figures plus royalties for the rights to his life story. The end result was the 1989 film Lean On Me starring Morgan Freeman.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer (Nikodemus Mwandishi). Thank you.**