Joe Clark, The Inspiration For ‘Lean On Me,’ Dies At 82
Principal Joe Clark, who served as the inspiration for the 1989 film classic Lean on Me, has passed away at 82 years old.
AP News reports that he died yesterday (Dec. 30) after a lengthy battle with an unspecified illness.
Clark was the former principal at Eastside High School in Paterson, NJ. His time here was remarkable. At one point, he expelled 300 students in a single day for fighting, abusing teachers, drug possession, and vandalism.
Doing this enabled him to challenge students that remained to be better. Clark would roam the school’s hallways with a bullhorn and a baseball bat in hand. His unorthodox methods led to him receiving national acclaim. He was asked by former President Ronald Reagan to become a White House policy adviser.
His massive success led to Lean on Me, which featured Morgan Freeman starring as Clark in a story based loosely on Clark’s time as principal at Eastside High School.
Upon retirement from the school in 1989, Clark served as the juvenile detention center Essex County Detention House director for six years.
Additionally, he wrote Laying Down the Law: Joe Clark’s Strategy for Saving Our Schools, which detailed his unorthodox way of leading during his time at Eastside High School.
Clark is survived by three children and three grandchildren.