James Gardner Clark, Jr.
(September 17, 1922, Elba, Coffee County, Alabama - June 4, 2007) of Selma, Alabama, was the sheriff of Dallas County,
Alabama from 1955 to 1966.
He was one of the
officials responsible for the violent arrests of civil rights
during the Selma to Montgomery
Clark served with the U.S. Army Air Force
in the Aleutian
Islands during World War
He was a cattle
lifelong friend Governor of
Alabama Jim Folsom
appointed him as
sheriff in 1955.
As of 1965, only 300 of the city's 15,000 potential black voters
were registered. As civil rights organizers pressed the local black
community to register, Clark and his deputies arrested hundreds of
officers joined with Alabama state troops in attacking civil rights protestors on the Edmund Pettus
Bridge in an event known as Bloody Sunday which was a critical
event in the United States
Congress passing the Voting Rights
In an obituary, the Washington
Mr. Clark's most visible moment came March 7, 1965, at
the start of a peaceful voting rights march from Selma to the
capital city of Montgomery.
Mr. Clark and his men were stationed near Selma's Edmund Pettus
Bridge. Alabama State Trooper John Cloud ordered the hundreds of
marchers to disperse. When they did not, Mr. Clark commanded his
mounted "posse" to charge into the crowd. Tear gas heightened the
chaos, and protesters were beaten....
Captured on national television, the Bloody Sunday incident spurred
widespread revulsion. Even Gov. George C. Wallace, who had earlier
sparked a national showdown over a refusal to integrate public
schools, reprimanded the state troopers and Mr. Clark.
Clark manhandled activists such as Amelia Boynton Robinson
, Rev. F.D.
Reese and Rev. C.T. Vivian in front of news cameras gaining
Selma was chosen by civil rights activists for protests because
they believed that the volatile, short-tempered Clark would
According to Wilson Baker, director of public safety, when Clark
heard this on a surveillance tape made of the meeting, "He'd scream
bloody murder that he'd never do it again, he wouldn't fall into
that trap again and go out the next day and do the same
The Mayor of Selma Joseph
and Wilson Baker wanted to blunt the force of the
campaign by exercising restraint but the voter registration offices
were Clark's responsibility. Following the passage of the Voter
Registration Act, Wilson Baker defeated Clark in a 1966 election,
in part because so many blacks had registered to vote.
Following his defeat, Clark sold mobile
and, during a period of financial hardship, served nine
months in prison for conspiracy to import marijuana
. In 2006, he told the Montgomery Advertiser
, "Basically, I’d
do the same thing today if I had to do it all over again."
He died in
Alabama in June 2007 from a stroke and heart
He was satirized by Tom Lehrer
song National Brotherhood Week
in the line, "National
Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood week, Lena Horne
and Sheriff Clark are dancing cheek to
cheek." Lena Horne is the singer and actress who was active in the
Civil Rights movement at the time.
- AP via MSNBC "Sheriff Jim Clark, segregationist icon, dies
at 84" June 6, 2007
- AP via San Francisco Chronicle, "Ala.
Ex-Sheriff Dies; Civil Rights Foe" June 6, 2007
- Washington University in St Louis, Sheriff Jim
- Steven Kasher, The Civil Rights Movement: A Photographic
History, 1954-68 (New York: Abbeville Press, 1996)
"Jim Clark, Sheriff Who Enforced Segregation, Dies at 84"
- Websters Online Dictionary