Who Was Mark Clark?

Mark Clark was the Chairman and first member of the Peoria, Illinois, chapter of the Black Panther Party.

Mark Clark was born on June 28, 1947, in Peoria, Illinois, to Elder William Clark and Fannie Bardley Clark.

He became active in the N.A.A.C.P at an early age and joined in demonstrating against discrimination in employment, housing and education. According to John Gwynn, former President of state and local chapters of the N.A.A.C.P, Mark Clark and his brothers played a major part in keeping other teenagers in line. "He could call for order when older persons or adults could not," he said of Mark in a December 1969 interview with the Chicago Tribune.

According to family members, Mark Clark enjoyed reading and art. He was very good at drawing portraits. He attended Manual High School and Illinois Central Junior College in Peoria but did not graduate. His sister, Elner, says he "liked the process of learning but didn't like school, so most of his knowledge came from his own efforts."

After reading literature from the Black Panther Party, he felt they were doing a lot of worthwhile things - like the free breakfast program. He joined the BPP and later decided to organize a local chapter. He went from church to church in an effort to find a building to house a free breakfast program. He was turned away time after time, but he never gave up. Eventually, Pastor Blaine Ramsey agreed to allow a free breakfast program. The program was shortlived.

Family members and friends say that Mark Clark knew he would be assassinated in Chicago. Before he made the trip, he told many people he would not see them again.

In the pre-dawn hours of December 4, 1969, Chicago Police stormed into the apartment of BPP State Chairman Fred Hampton at 2337 W. Monroe Street, killing both Mark Clark and Fred Hampton. Seven other members of the Black Panther Party were beaten, arrested and later charged with attempted murder of those Police officers.

Those who remember Mark Clark refer to him as a "quiet leader" and a "thinker." "He had a feeling for people and placed them above himself," said one friend. One thing most people seem to remember about him is that he was always urging you to improve, to do the right thing. Some police officers have been quoted in newspapers as saying that "Mark Clark was not a criminal."

Mark Clark was the son of a preacher. His father, Elder William Clark, had been Pastor of the Greater Holy Temple Church of God in Christ in Peoria. Elder Clark died some seven months before his son was assassinated.