Principal Joe Clark, who inspired the 1989 film “Lean on Me,” died at his Florida home on Dec. 29 after a long battle with an unspecified illness, his family said. He was 82.
Clark was the principal of crime and drug-ridden Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey in the 1980s. He was known for his unorthodox methods; he patrolled the hallways with a baseball bat and a blowhorn. He explained that the bat was not a weapon but a symbol of choice, as a student could either strike out or hit a home run.
Clark expelled 300 Eastside students in a single day for fighting, vandalism, abusing teachers and drug possession. His actions challenged the remaining students to perform better.
After his success at Eastside, U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered Clark a White House policy adviser position.
Clark was born in Rochelle, Georgia, on May 8, 1938 and his family moved to Newark, New Jersey when he was six years old. After graduating from Newark Central High School, Clark received his bachelor’s degree from William Paterson College (now William Paterson University), a master’s degree from Seton Hall University, and an honorary doctorate from the U.S. Sports Academy. Clark also served as a U.S. Army Reserve sergeant and a drill instructor.
Clark is survived by his children, Joetta, Hazel and JJ, and grandchildren, Talitha, Jorell and Hazel. His wife, Gloria, preceded him in death.
Source: The Associated Press