Retired lawmaker recalls his trailblazing career

As the first black member of the Mississippi House of Representatives since Reconstruction, Robert Clark had to prove to his colleagues that an African American could have the same sophistication as a white man.

Clark served nine consecutive terms from 1968-2003 and eventually won the respect of his fellow representatives, rising to the No. 2 position, speaker pro tempore.

It was much different when he first ran in 1967. “There was some opposition, and there was a heck of a lot of support,” Clark said.

He believes those voters had more courage than African Americans today. Many individuals who lived on plantations were told by their bosses that if they voted to “just keep on going, don’t come back.”

His platform of equality and education won anyway, and Clark awaited his reception at the Capitol.

In those days, the senior delegation could choose where legislators sat, and he was given a seat by himself. “I set by myself alone in the House for the next eight years before I got my first desk mate,” he said.

Clarion Ledger
2/23/9