SOURCE: History of Texas, Together with a Biographical History of Milam, Williamson, Bastrop, Travis, Lee and Burleson Counties. (Chicago, IL: Lewis, 1893), p. 667-669.
Prof. J. W. Clark -- "Thank God there are no free schools in this province, nor printing press; and I hope we shall have none these hundred years," wrote Berkeley, the royalist governor of Virginia in 1671, and his wish, unnatural as it may seem now, was almost literally fulfilled. But this sentiment never found lodgment with the colonists, and was not tolerated by them after they came to see clearly their rights and privileges, the establishing of newspapers and the founding of schools being among the earliest objects of their fostering care. Each of these forces has grown to be mighty factor in the development of this country, and the story of civilization in the western world is largely the story of the evolution of the printing press and the free school system. From the public schools of the States men and women have gone to fill all ranks, all spheres, in life. The press has been gratefully called the "Palladium of our Liberties;" the public school is no less the nursery of public virtue and public intelligence.
The subject of this sketch, Professor John W. Clark, Principal of the public schools at Rockdale, is one whose labors in behalf of education entitle him to the grateful recognition of all who have at heart the elevation of the minds and morals of the young, and is especially deserving of notice in connection with the public schools of that place - confessedly among the best in the State, their superiority being in a large measure due to his untiring efforts.
He is a native of Washington county, Virginia, born September 13,1851, and is a son of Peter G. and Parmelia A. Clark, natives of the same State. His father is a planter, residing now in Washington county, Virginia, where he has passed most of his life, and where he is extensively and favorably know. He was a soldier in the Confederate army during the late war, serving with credit as Lieutenant of Company F, Twenty-first Virginia Cavalry, in which he fought under those distinguished generals, Jubal A. Early and Fitzhugh Lee, taking part in all the campaigns and engagements in which the army of northern Virginia participated from Manassas to Appomattox. He has been a life-long member of the Presbyterian Church, and faithful to every duty as a citizen and member of the community in which he resides. The mother, who is also yet living, bore the maiden name of Parmelia Ann Cunningham, being a daughter of George and Martha Cunningham, natives of Virginia, and descendants of early settled families of the State, originally of Scotch and Irish extraction. The two children of the marriage of Peter G and Parmelia A. Clark are Rev. Peter C. Clark, a regularly installed minister of the Presbyterian Church, now filling a charge at Fincaster, Virginia, and Prof. John W. Clark, of this article.
The last named was reared in his native county, and in the schools of that county received his early education. He began teaching at the age of sixteen, and in this way earned the money with which to defray his expenses through college. He attended Emory and Henry College at Emory, Virginia, and the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington, graduating from the latter, July 4, 1875. He resumed teaching as a profession immediately on graduation, securing a school at Lebanon, Virginia, where he taught for one year. He then came to Texas, in October 1876, and taught in the public schools at Bastrop for twelve months, after which he located in Austin, where he remained for two years, during which time he had charge of the seven graded schools of that city.
Having been made Adjunct Professor of mathematics in the Agricultural and Mechanical College at Bryan he went to that place in 1880, where he taught for one year. He was then offered the superintendency of the schools of Navasota, which he accepted and there labored for four years. In the meantime, January 9,1882, he married Miss Lucy W. Brown, a daughter of Robert Brown, of Navasota, Mrs. Clark being a native Texan and a lady of excellent attainment, graduation with the first honor in the first class that graduated from the Houston high school, in May 1879. She has since shared her husband's labors, and rendered him most efficient aid.
In 1884, Prof. Clark was called to Rockdale, where he took charge of the public schools, which position he has since held. His life has thus been taken up with teaching, a calling for which he possesses a natural aptitude and for the successful pursuit of which he has qualified himself in an eminent degree. His work in this line has always been of high order, and has given almost universal satisfaction. His specialty is mathematics, but he is proficient in all branches, and as an organizer possesses ability equaled by but few. He knows a good school as soon as he sees it, and he can take a poor one and in short time make a good one of it.
In the last seventeen years that he has been in Texas he has done a vast amount of labor in behalf of the State schools as well as in behalf of the general cause of education, and he has established himself securely in the estimation and good will of the people where he has taught, and in the opinion of leading educators with whom he has been brought in contact. His class-room work is marked for its breadth and thoroughness, particularly as respects those things of practical need. He believes, as one has said, that the "primary problem with a lad is to teach him to take care of himself and to cling to that which is sincerely lucrative" and with this in view he refrains from loading his scholars with a knowledge of the ways and customs of fairyland, the unintelligible jargon of numerical formulae, and the vagaries of occult sciences and metaphysical speculation. He teaches them, instead, their duties and relations to society as it is now constituted, and prepares them to handle problems of industrial development, finance, civil government and such matters of practical import which are ever calling for invention, novelty, freedom of mind and readiness to respond to external changes and circumstances. He goes about his work with a solemn sense of its gravity and seeks to impress upon those under him the same feeling of responsibility. His management in general is characterized by the same high sense of duty, his relations with teacher and trustees being marked by the utmost harmony and by mutual helpfulness and mutual esteem.
The Professor has taken some interest in matters outside of his school work, but has never allowed any pursuit of diversion to interfere with the objects of his calling. He has served as City Engineer of Rockdale, and while a resident of Austin he was identified with some local organizations of a civil and social nature. He is a member of the Knights of Honor, and he and his wife are both members of the Presbyterian Church. They have a family of three living children: Coral Clark, May Cunningham Clark and John Vincent Clark, their third child, Robert Gilbert Clark, being deceased.
We must say a special thank you to Sylvia Thomas of Georgetown, Texas, for typing the above biographical sketch for use on the Milam County TXGenWeb site.
Created on 28 June 2004 and last revised on ____________