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Felton G. Clark
*Felton G. Clark was born on this date in 1903. He was a Black educator and administrator.
Felton Grandison Clark came from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the son of Joseph Samuel Clark, the founder and first president of Southern University. Clark received his early education at Baton Rouge College. In 1922 he graduated from the High School department at Southern University and received his B.A. from Beloit College in Wisconsin in 1924. He later attended Colombia University, where he received his M.A. in Educational Psychology in 1925 and his Ph.D. in Educational Administration in 1933.
Early in his career, Clark taught at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, between 1925 and 1927, Southern University between 1927 and 1930, and Howard University from 1931 to 1933, before returning to Southern as the Dean of the University in 1934. Dr. Clark was married to Allene J. Knighten. The couple had no children. In 1938, Clark succeeded his father as president of Southern University.
His tenure at Southern saw its greatest challenge during the early years of the 20th-century American Civil Rights movement. On March 28, 1960, seven Southern University students participated in a sit-in at the lunch counter of the S.H. Kress store in Baton Rouge and were arrested. The next day, Southern students organized more sit-ins, followed by more arrests. To protest the arrests, thousands of students marched through the streets of Baton Rouge. The unrest was met by harsh criticism from Louisiana governor Earl K. Long who demanded that Clark take swift and decisive action against the students who staged the sit-ins.
Bowing to overwhelming pressure, Clark suspended 18 students from Southern. Feeling betrayed, hundreds of students withdrew from the university, and two years later, Clark was forced to close the school briefly. Later in the decade, the rift between the students and the Clark administration began to heal. Clark encouraged several chemical companies to invest in Louisiana and to hire Southern graduates. He also focused resources on developing and expanding the University’s graduate and professional schools.
Under Clark’s leadership, Southern University prospered. It grew from a small college with 40 buildings and 1,500 students in 1938 to a large public university with satellite campuses in New Orleans and Shreveport. At his retirement in 1969, the University had more than 11,000 students, making it the largest Black university in enrollment in the nation, and its annual budget exceeded 12 million dollars. Felton G. Clark died in New Orleans on July 5, 1970, at 66.
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