Alexander G. Clark , journalist, lawyer, minister, and Consul – General to Liberia, died in Monrovia, Liberia, on May 31,1891.
Alexander G. Clark rose from modest beginnings to become a man of wealth. He balanced his career by mixing interests in real estate, politics, the military, religion, the newspaper media, and law. He fought for a number of causes, such as suffrage for black men and women, school integration, and civil rights of blacks in general.
Born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, on February 25, 1826, Clark was the son of John Clark, a former slave of an Irish master, and Rebecca Darnes Clark, a full-blooded African. He began his education in Washington County but was moved to Cincinnati in 1939 to live with an uncle. He attended school for one year and at the same time learned his uncle’s barber business. At age fifteen, he left to go south as a bartender on the steamer George Washington. In May 1842 Clark went to Muscatine, Iowa, where he opened a barbershop. Continuing his business ventures, he supplied wood to steamboats and used his profits to purchase real estate; this proved to be a wise choice, for he became a wealthy man. In 1848, Clark married Catherine Guffin and had five children.
Clark had a variety of interests. He began his public career in 1849, when he cofounded the local African Methodist Episcopal Church and served as trustee, steward, and superintendent of the Sunday school. His church activities took him to the Methodist Ecumenical Conference held in London in 1881.
He had an interest in the military as well and enlisted in the First Iowa Colored Volunteer Infantry in 1863, where, until the end of the war, he served primarily as a recruiter throughout the West. A physical disability prevented him from becoming physically active and accepting an appointment as sergeant-major.
Clark spent much of his life working with Masonic circles and held several high offices with the Grand Lodge of Missouri; he had jurisdiction over six states. In 1884, he organized the Hiram Grand Lodge of Iowa, then merged it with another grand lodge to form the United Grand Lodge of Iowa and served as its president.
A man with a vision, he became active in politics and was chairperson and spokesperson for the first Convention of Colored Men held in Iowa in 1868. He called for political equality of black men of Iowa. In 1869 year he became one of the vice presidents of the Republican State Convention of Iowa. In 1872, he was delegate at large from Iowa to the 1872 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia and later alternate delegate from his state to the Cincinnati convention. A great orator who had been favorably compared to his long standing friend Frederick Douglass, Clark was often called the “Colored Orator of the West.”
Clark supported a number of causes, including women’s suffrage and civil rights. He successfully sued the local school board when his daughter was denied entrance to the Muscatine public schools. The state supreme court heard the case and ruled in his favor.
He entered law school when he was in his fifties and graduated from the University of Iowa Law School in 1884, then opened a law office in Chicago. He became one of the three owners of the newspaper the Conservator and used the paper to speak out against the ill treatment of blacks.
President Benjamin Harrison appointed him minister and consul-general to Liberia on August 8, 1890. He died there on May 31, 1891, but was returned to Muscatine for a state funeral.