Robert Clark, First Black to Serve in Mississippi Legislature, is Honored on 50th Anniversary of Election

Robert Clark
Robert Clark

Robert Clark, the first African American elected to the state Legislature since the 1800s, said his priority as a member was for everybody “to pull together for a better Mississippi.”

Clark, age 88, reiterated that theme repeatedly during a ceremony Wednesday at the Old Capitol Museum commemorating the 50th anniversary of his historic election to the Mississippi House from rural Holmes County on the fringes of the Delta.

The theme of the ceremony in front of about 340 people in a packed House chamber of the old Capitol was that in 50 years Mississippi has come a long way, but still has a long way to go.

“We tried to do what we could do, not for the Democratic Party, not for the Republican Party, but for Mississippians – working for a better Mississippi,” said Clark, who was first elected as an independent but was a member of the Democratic Party for most of his political career that ended in 2004.

Clark and many of the other speakers spent more time talking about the state’s future than on anecdotes about his struggles. When he was first elected, no member wanted to sit next him in the House chamber, so he sat alone on the front row on the north side of the room, and in the early years, it was difficult for him to be recognized to speak on issues.

“I thank for your sacrifice,” said U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who holds the congressional seat that Clark ran unsuccessfully for twice in the 1980s. “…I thank you for the fact you ran all over the state trying to get people like you elected.”

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SOURCE: Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal