Lean On Me clip / YouTube

One of his real-life students, Arlinda Crutchfield, who was a sophomore when Clark began his tenure at Eastside High School released a statement upon hearing of his death.


“He was the best thing that happened to that school,” Crutchfield wrote in an email to the Paterson Times. “His methods were done out of love for the young Black community and they worked. He was so genuine. I will always remember how pleasant he was. I looked forward to seeing him in the halls with his bull horn because everything time he saw me he called me by my name. I don’t know how he remembered it, but he did. I had such a good experience in high school, and because of him, I can say that I am proud to have went to Eastside!”

Clark retired from Eastside in 1989 and also wrote a book detailing his now well-known education and discipline methods titled, Laying Down the Law: Joe Clark’s Strategy for Saving Our Schools. Clark is survived by his children Joetta, Hazel and JJ as well as his grandchildren Talitha, Jorell and Hazel. His wife Gloria, whom he met at Eastside, died last year.


As Freeman notably said in his powerful portrayal of the late leader and disciplinarian, “We sink, we swim, we rise, we fall—We meet our fate together.”

Rest in power, Mr. Clark.