Our dynamic story begins with Wilkie Clark, a man that to this day, we love, honor and respect. As a young man in his early 20s his single desire in life was to become a funeral director and one day own his own funeral home.
Wilkie Clark was perhaps one of the most outstanding black men of his time. Thus, we use these pages, to remember, honor and respect him, not only as one of the most outstanding funeral service practitioners in our area, but also as a humanitarian, and dedicated servant of God.
We remember him as a man who was “marked” by the desire and strong drive to serve others, which is what he dedicated his life to. Therefore, the funeral service domain provided him with the perfect province through which to serve and connect with African American families of Roanoke and Randolph county. It was the right “fit” with his drive to serve humanity.During his lifetime, he often spellbound us with his stories of coming through the depression, the near-death experiences while serving during World War II, and other oppressive times in history. But his hardships served to make him a stronger, better, bigger man for having gone through them. Though he endured numerous hardships through life — many of which were clearly brought on through racism — he rose up to become one of the most extraordinary leaders in our community.
Born in 1920, he was one of the descendants of the late Lizzie Baker, a native of Randolph County. Lizzie’s daughter, Lou Ella Baker married Charlie Clark from Bremen, Georgia, but she later left him and returned home with all of her children to “Springfield.” The children had to sharecrop, and therefore, could not get a high school education. But, Wilkie Clark had a strong, determined mind.
As a mere youngster, he left the “Springfield” community and came to Roanoke, Alabama, where he worked for Dr. G.W. Bonner. He was later drafted into the Army, and served in World War II, where he really “found himself.” While in the army, he served in the medical detachment as a surgical technician, earning the rank of Technician 3rd Grade. Drawing upon his surgical experience, it was there that he developed a reverence for the human body. Upon his return home, while still in his 20’s, he immediately completed his high school education. He had an intense desire to start a funeral home business; he solicited the help of friends to partner with him in this endeavor, but being black, there were many barriers, so the dream was deferred for more than 20 years.
In the meantime, he married the former Miss Hattie Lee Peters, a young teacher from Anniston, Alabama. She was a graduate of Alabama State Teachers College in Huntsville, Alabama, which is now, Alabama A & M University. She was in Randolph County, teaching in the rural communities, where she boarded with families of the children she taught. She was a very bright, intelligent sophisticated woman, who loved her husband dearly, and worked alongside of him, to make their dreams come true. She became known as one of the finest elementary teachers in the Randolph County School System, and was named Coordinator of the Elementary Department at the Randolph County Training School in Roanoke. As an educator, she loved her profession, and she loved working with the children of the community.
Together, Wilkie and Hattie Lee had one child, a daughter, whom they named Charlotte Anne Clark, whom they nurtured, educated, and groomed to be the one to ultimately assume the primary responsibility for the company’s operation.
He had an excellent work ethic, which would later become a credit to him. Therefore, Clark Funeral Home was actually born in the mind of the late Wilkie Clark more than 20 years before it became a reality. In the 1960s with the changing times, and many of the racial barriers eliminated, he seized the opportunity to apply for a Small Business Loan, and started moving toward the opening of his Funeral Home. The rest of the story, you know. Although we were founded prior to 1969, our first call came on February 18, 1970. Since that time, we have ministered to the families of more than 2,000 individuals. There is no way we can tell his life story in this writing, but we truly believe that Wilkie Clark was probably born a little bit before his time. God blessed him to offer his services to our community for more than 20 years. During that time, he grew professionally and cultivated his talent as a gifted funeral service practitioner. In the years of his tenure, he earned a matchless reputation for reliability, trustworthiness, and his artistic ability in preparing and presenting the dead for public memorialization.
The Clarks were both active and aggressive in their community, working with the PTA, the Church, and Civil Rights Efforts of the community. Wilkie Clark served as President of the Randolph County NAACP for close to 40 years, and took numerous personal risks to facilitate positive and sometimes radical changes in the community that helped to lift black citizens out of the oppressive circumstances in which they had been relegated for decades. The late Mr. Clark passed away on July 29, 1989.