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The high school principal who inspired ‘Lean On Me’ was 82 – Deadline

Joe Clark, the inspiration for John G. Avildsen’s film in 1989 Lean on me is dead.

Clark’s family shared in a statement that the retired New Jersey high school principal died at his home in Gainesville, Fla. on Tuesday after a long battle with illness. He was 82 years old.

Born in Rochelle, Georgia, in 1938, Clark is best known as the ambitious principal of Eastside High School in New Jersey, which expelled nearly 300 students for drug possession, vandalism and fighting, and challenged the remaining students. to strive to improve. To help him inspire his students and get his inspiring messages across, Clark carried a megaphone and a baseball bat through the halls of the Eastside.

Famous for his success in the Eastside, the former U.S. Army Reserve Sgt and Drill Instructor continued to cover Time Magazine and made appearances on 60 minutes and The Arsenio Hall show. In 1989 Clark retired from Eastside and Morgan Freeman commemorated the notable figure in education while playing in John G. Avildsen Lean on me written by Michael Schiffer.

Like the real director of Eastside, Freeman accessorized his director’s costume with a megaphone, baseball bat, and a tough love attitude. Freeman won an NAACP Image Award for his performance as an ambitious and inspiring director of New Jersey.

Almost 30 years after leaving academia, Clark continued to inspire future iterations of his story as John Legend, Wendy Calhoun and LeBron James were scheduled to adapt the Avildsen film for a drama series on the CW.

Clark is predeceased by his wife, Gloria and survived by his children Joetta, Hazel and JJ. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Talitha, Jorell and Hazel.

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