Retired high school principal Joe Clark died Tuesday at 82 at his home in Florida after a long battle with an unspecified illness.
During the ‘80s, Clark became nationally famous for his tough love approach to education. He turned around one of the worst schools in New Jersey, expelling 300 students in one day to get crime and drugs under control. He painted over graffiti, chained the doors shut against criminals and required students to know and sing the school song on demand. He was also famous for patrolling the halls with a bullhorn and a baseball bat. In a statement, his family said, “Steadfast in his approach, Clark explained that the bat was not a weapon but a symbol of choice: a student could either strike out or hit a home run."
Liberals assailed him for instilling discipline in public school, but President Reagan offered him a White House policy adviser position. The public gave its verdict when “Lean On Me,” a movie of his story starring Morgan Freeman as Clark, became a major hit and audiences gave it a rare Cinemascore rating of A+.
Here are some remembrances of Clark from Morgan Freeman, who called him a father figure to the kids and “the best of the best in terms of education.”