ABOVE PHOTO: Philadelphia Councilwoman-at-Large Augusta A. Clark sits in her City Hall office in 1996. Augusta “Gussie” Clark, a former Philadelphia city councilwoman who was a staunch advocate for public schools, has died. She was 81.
(AP Photo/Philadelphia Daily News, E.W. Faircloth)
Augusta “Gussie” Clark, a former Philadelphia city councilwoman who was a staunch advocate for public schools, has died. She was 81.
Clark died Sunday at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood.
Clark worked as a librarian and lawyer before serving 20 years on City Council after her election in 1980. She was then only the second black woman elected to council, as a Democrat at-large.
Clark was born in Uniontown, Ala., before her family moved to Fairmont, W.Va., where she would graduate from West Virginia State College.
She moved to Philadelphia to work as an assistant at Color magazine, a publication modeled after Life, but which targeted black readers. When the publication folded, Clark earned a master’s degree in library science from Drexel University and later, at age 39, a law degree from Temple University.
Clark opposed school vouchers and helped pass a 10 percent liquor tax to help fund the school system.
City Council President Darrell Clarke issued a statement saying voters often assumed — despite the different spellings of their last names — that he was Clark’s son.
“She was so popular back then with residents, I have to admit at times I was attempted to not correct them,” Clarke said.
Clark worked for U.S. Rep. William H. Gray before she was elected to city council, and U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., called Clark a “dedicated public servant.”
“Everyone she touched knew of her passion for education, and she will be forever recognized for her tireless work improving the city’s public schools,” Fattah said.
The Philadelphia Inquirer said Clark was satisfied with her two decades on council when she retired in 2000.
“I think elected office is like poker,” she told the newspaper then. “I think you have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. And when you feel you have amassed a body of work that satisfies you.”
Clark is survived by her son, Mark; a daughter, Adrienne; and four grandchildren. Her husband, Leroy W. Clark, died in 2007.
Mayor Nutter releases statement on passing of Augusta Clark
Mayor Michael A. Nutter issued the following statement regarding the passing of former City Councilwoman Augusta Clark:
“On behalf of the entire City of Philadelphia, I wish to express our official – and my personal – sympathies to Councilwoman Clark’s family and friends.
“I met Gussie Clark thirty years ago and since that time, she’s been a friend, colleague, supporter and mentor. My wife Lisa and I were able to see Gussie in the hospital just last Thursday, and fortunately, she was resting peacefully.
“Gussie Clark has meant so much to so many of us engaged in social and political struggles; she was an incredible champion for children and education, she encouraged and mentored so many women – including my wife Lisa – and she spoke truth to power. When Gussie spoke, everyone listened and then took action.
“We’ve suffered so many losses recently in the political world – Councilwoman Clark, Councilwoman Krajewski and Congressman Bill Gray. They are all missed and admired.
“I’ve had the privilege of learning many lessons from Gussie Clark; I will keep her spirit close to my heart and in the forefront of my efforts for our great City.
“I have ordered all City flags to stand at half-mast in her honor. Councilwoman Augusta Clark was a treasure and we all benefited from knowing her and experiencing her work. She will be deeply missed.”