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Wed, 06.07.1871

Joseph S. Clark, Educator born

Joseph Samuel Clark

*Joseph Clark was born on this date in 1871.  He was a Black administrator and educator.  Joseph Samuel Clark was born in Sparta, an unincorporated town in Bienville Parish, LA, in 1871, to Philip and Jane Clark.  

He studied at Coleman, Bishop College, and Leland College, graduating in 1901 with a bachelor's degree. He also did post-graduate work at the University of Chicago and Harvard University.  Clark started as a teacher but was soon appointed as an administrator. In 1901 he was chosen as head of Baton Rouge College, serving until 1912.  In 1914, he was appointed the first president of the Southern University in Baton Rouge and A&M College, a state university founded as a land grant college for Blacks.

In this role, he supervised the relocation in 1914 and the development of the school in the small farming community of Scotlandville in East Baton Rouge Parish, where the state had bought more than 500 acres of land. By the end of his tenure, Clark supervised a college with 1,400 enrolled students. The college contributed to the community's growth, which was also based on manufacturing.

By the later 20th century, it became the largest majority-African American community in the state. Scotlandville was later incorporated as part of the city of Baton Rouge.  He served for eight years as the president of the Louisiana State Colored Teachers' Association. He co-founded the National Colored Teachers Association in 1906, later known as the American Teachers Association, and served a year as president. 

He was also a co-founder of the National Negro Business League and the National Urban League. In 1931 Republican US president Herbert Hoover offered Clark the United States Ambassador to Liberia post. He turned it down because he was deeply involved in developing Southern University.  Clark received honorary doctorates from Selma University and Arkansas Baptist College.  

Clark married Octavia Head on December 29, 1901. They had one son, Felton Grandison Clark, who also had a career in education and succeeded his father as president of Southern University in 1938.  He retired in 1938. He died on November 3, 1944; he, his wife, and his son are buried on campus in 3 above-ground tombs.

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