Joe Clark, the legendary Paterson Eastside High School principal portrayed by Morgan Freeman in the classic biopic, Lean On Me, has died.
Mr. Clark was surrounded by family when passed away on Tuesday at his Florida home after a long illness.
He was 82.
Over a six-year tenure as Eastside’s principal, Clark was both lauded and criticized for his tough approach.
After a year at Eastside, the bullhorn-toting Clark had expelled 300 students for poor grades and spotty attendance. But he raised the expectations of the remaining students, “continually challenging them to perform better,” his family wrote.
He said his signature bat was not a threat but a choice: “A student could either strike out or hit a home run.”
Joe Clark left Eastside in 1989 and became director of the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center.
He later retired to Gainesville, Florida, where he lived until his passing.
My sincerest condolences to Mr. Clark’s family, friends, and all who knew and loved him.