Opinion » Editorial

The Passing of Pioneers



This last week has seen some serious losses in the Memphis political community. Elsewhere in this issue, the life and career of Larry Turner, who for a quarter century represented the southernmost rim of Memphis and Shelby County in the legislature, are dealt with in some detail. His passing is a major event; so is that of Alzada Clark, who died last Thursday.

Clark had been inactive in recent years, but in her prime she participated in virtually every major struggle on behalf of the poor and oppressed. In the 1960s, she was a union organizer in Mississippi, working with black women in low-wage industries and simultaneously facing down the Klan, the police, and recalcitrant employers.

She joined with Fannie Lou Hamer and Aaron Henry to challenge restrictions imposed by the credentials committee at an epochal Democratic National Convention.

Clark was in on the founding of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists in 1972. She was a dedicated member of the NAACP, particularly active in voter registration and fund-raising, and, like Turner, she played a part in the overtly political realm, serving as a member of the Democratic Women of Shelby County and the Federation of Democratic Women. Her husband, Leroy Clark, who shared her trials and tribulations as a union organizer, became the first black chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party in the mid-1980s.

One of Alzada Clark's proudest achievements was to have served in 1993 as a consultant for At the River I Stand, the documentary that examined the 1968 sanitation workers' strike, which brought Dr. Martin Luther King so fatefully to Memphis.

Though her name was never a household word locally, it acquired resonance in all the fields of human struggle in which she labored, and a variety of awards were bestowed on her and created in her honor.

Among the latter was the Alzada Clark Community Activist Award, created by the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and awarded annually to someone who, like Clark herself, best exemplifies a life of selfless service.

AARP Plays Santa

At a time when the service of distinguished seniors commands recognition, it is appropriate also to note and commend a service being offered by the American Association of Retired Persons.

On Tuesday, December 8th, the Tennessee AARP will hold an open house at the National Civil Rights Museum. Admission is free all day, entertainment will be provided, and an abundance of AARP officers and members of other civic-minded agencies and organizations will be on hand.

Attendees are also invited, if they choose, to bring gifts for needy Memphis residents, to be distributed under the AARP's "Be a Santa to a Senior" program. Examples: postage stamps, a nail file, hat, or fleece blanket, what-have-you.

We're happy to do our part to boost this worthy project. Want to register? Call 1-877-926-8300.

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