April 11, 2016 at 4:15 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Veteran LGBT rights activist Jerry Clark dies at 74
Jerry Clark, gay news, Washington Blade

Jerry Clark, a long-time LGBT rights and D.C. statehood activist, died April 9. (Photo courtesy of the National LGBTQ Task Force)

Jerry N. Clark, an attorney, union health and pension fund director, and health care benefits consultant in Washington who for years served as an advocate for the cause of LGBT rights and D.C. statehood died April 9 at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. He was 74.

His sister, Melinda Rider, said the cause of death was complications associated with a severe head injury sustained from a fall in January at his home of 40 years in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood.

“Jerry was a progressive with an unwavering vision of equality for all people,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, for which Clark has served as a member and co-chair of its board of directors.

“He will be remembered for his leadership, but also for his kindness and compassion,” Carey said in a statement. “Surely the world is a better place having had his talents, and we are beholden to all that Jerry contributed to the movement.”

Among his numerous involvements in progressive political causes; Clark served as chair of the D.C. Statehood Coalition, political director of D.C. For Democracy and a board member of the local group Stop Gun Violence.

He has served as co-chair of D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health’s spring gala, a trustee for the Law and Society Association and a member of the Democratic National Committee’s Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council.

Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray appointed Clark to the Mayor’s Committee on the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. In recent years Clark was one of the lead organizers of an LGBT contingent in the city’s annual Martin Luther King Day parade.

In 2014 the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance presented Clark with its Distinguished Service Award for what it called his exemplary and dedicated work on behalf of LGBT equality.

“Time and again on issue after issue, Jerry can be found lending his expertise and offer a hand,” said then-GLAA Vice President for Administration Kevin Davis. “His energy and commitment are an example to others.”

Clark was born and raised in Muncie, Ind. He graduated in 1959 from Muncie’s Burris School, which he attended from kindergarten through 12th grade, according to Rider. Rider said he received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, a law degree from the University of Chicago and completed his doctoral studies in political science at the University of Minnesota.

He came to Washington in 1973 to work as a legal assistant at the Department of Justice under then-U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson. A short time later Clark began work at the Washington-based United Mine Workers Health and Retirement Funds, Rider said, where he spent the major part of his career as its executive director.

In recent years, Rider said, he did consulting work in the area of health care benefits and health care cost containment.

“He was so committed to making things better and never needed the spotlight,” said gay activist and former White House aide Dave Noble. “A real loss but…what a beautiful legacy.”

Clark is survived by his sisters Alma Marie Osborn of Boise, Idaho; Betty Hunt of Summerfield, Fla.; and Melinda Rider of Greensboro, Ga.; and his brother Parnell David Clark of Battle Creek, Mich. He was predeceased by his parents Parnell David Clark, Sr., and Alma Clark.

Earl Fowlkes, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s largest local LGBT political organization, said Clark was a longtime active member of the club.

“I have known Jerry for almost 20 years and in that time I’ve seen him work in all communities, especially Gertrude Stein, to push for D.C. statehood,” said Fowlkes. “He was a man for all seasons and will be missed by all who knew him.”

Rider said plans for a memorial celebration of Clark’s life will be announced shortly. She said contributions in remembrance of Clark can be made as a gift to Whitman-Walker Health.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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