“Fair eastside high.”
“They used to call me Crazy Joe, now they can call me Batman!”
“Jump! You smoke drugs don’t you?!”
There are so many quotables from the movie ‘Lean On Me’ that the list of memorable phrases goes on and on. The movie starred veteran actor Morgan Freeman as Joe Clark, a baseball bat and bullhorn-wielding principal who would stop at nothing to see his students and his school that loved, become a success.
The real Joe Louis Clark, whose life the movie was based upon, showed an unwavering commitment to his students and uncompromising disciplinary methods, died at his Florida home on Tuesday after a long battle with an unspecified illness, his family said. He was 82.
The movie took place at Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey. What once was a promising school, it had turned into a drug-infested underachieving establishment that was a haven for crime and all sorts of illegal activity. Clark expelled 300 students in a single day for fighting, vandalism, abusing teachers and drug possession. That lifted the expectations of those who remained, continually challenging them to perform better. Clark’s unorthodox methods, which included roaming the hallways with a bullhorn and a baseball bat, won him both admirers and critics nationwide. According to the Associated Press, President Ronald Reagan offered Clark a White House policy adviser position after his success at the high school.
“I don’t just categorically extirpate young people out of school, but I am categorically emphatic that we cannot any longer condone hooliganism, aberrant behavior and deviant behavior in those schools,” Clark said in a CNN interview. “I’m convinced that young people, the vast majority, deserve the right to an environment that’s conducive to learning.”
Clark was born in Rochelle, Georgia, on May 8, 1938. His family moved north to Newark, New Jersey, when he was 6 years old. After graduating from Newark Central High School, Clark received his bachelor’s degree from William Paterson College (now William Paterson University), a master’s degree from Seton Hall University, and an honorary doctorate from the U.S. Sports Academy. Clark also served as a U.S. Army Reserve sergeant and a drill instructor.
Clark’s teaching career started at a Paterson grade school in Passaic County, New Jersey, before he became principal of PS 6 Grammar School.
After retiring from Eastside in 1989, Clark worked for six years as