After graduating in 1826, he read law in Raleigh under the guidance of his kindsman William H. Haywood, jr., who was his nestor in politics, as well as in law. He was admitted to the bar, but never practiced, nor did he take much interest in politics until 1850, when he was elected senator in the legislature from Edgecombe, and continued to occupy this position without intermission until 1861. In 1858, he was chosen speaker which he occupied until early in the summer of 1861, when he summoned to Raleigh, upon the illness of Governor Ellis, and on his death he became governor of the state. This was a perilous period of our history and demanded the exercise of prudence and sagacity; Governor Clark discharged his duties to the best of his ability.
At the close of his administration he retired to his home, near Tarbor, where he was near being captured by a raid of Federal cavalry. He escaped, but his house was plundered, the jewelry and watches taken from the ladies of his family, and all the stores for their support carried off or destroyed.
After the war closed, Governor Clark was again elected to the senate (1866) under Johnson's reconstruction acts. This was his last public service.
He had been for years the presiding justice of the peace for the county.
During the whole course of his life he was a laborious and devoted student of the history of his state. As a local chronicler of the present, or a patient antiquarian of the past, he was unquestionable authority, recognized as such by all. It was for many years the earnest wish of his heart to have printed the early journals of the assembly and such documents in the office of the secretary of the state, as illustrated the early history of our state, but in vain. A distinguished statesman of South Carolina, Waddy Thompson, was wont to say: "North Carolina has a proud and glorious revolutionary history, far superior to any of her sister states, but has had none since." It is because we have had so few like Governor Clark, who wish to preserve these precious memorials, and
As a rich legacy unto their issue"
There were few men in North Carolina better posted as to her men, families and sections. Only a year or two before his death, he proposed to me to unite in a periodical, devoted to history and genealogy. He left on his table at the time of his death, a letter on this subject to the Honorable Kemp P. Battle.
We do not claim for Governor Clark the renown of the accomplished statesman, or the thrilling eloquence of the orator, but he was an honest man, and always equal to any duty assigned to him by his country; never above or below, but just equal to the duties of his station.
Simple and unaffected and unassuming in his manners, modest in his demeanor, a gentleman by birth and education, as well as by disposition and nature; warm in his attachments and sincere in his friendships, he lived honored, respected, and trusted in life, and enjoying the esteem, respect, and regard of every one who knew him.
He departed this life on April 14th, 1874. On the day of his burial all business was suspended, and the town and surrounding country united in the last tribute of respect to his character.
He was married in February, 1850, to Mrs. Mary W. Hargrave, daughter of Theophilus Parker, who, with two sons and three daughters survive him. Truly to him may be applied the exquisite lines of Bryant:
"He so lived, that when the summons came to join
The innumerable caravan, that moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the halls of death.
--Sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, he approached the grave.
Like one that draws the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."
Index - Contents