Joe Clark, the imperious disciplinarian principal of a troubled New Jersey high school in the 1980s who gained fame for restoring order as he roamed its hallways with a bullhorn and sometimes a baseball bat, died on Monday at his home in Gainesville, Fla. He was 82.
His family announced his death but did not specify a cause.
When Mr. Clark, a former Army drill sergeant, arrived at Eastside High School in Paterson in 1982, he declared it a “caldron of violence.” In his first week, he expelled 300 students for disciplinary problems. When he tossed out — “expurgated,” he said — about 60 more students five years later, he called them “leeches, miscreants and hoodlums.”
But he succeeded in restoring order and improving some test scores, winning praise (and the offer of a White House policy job) from President Ronald Reagan and William J. Bennett, Reagan’s education secretary, and being immortalized in the 1989 film “Lean on Me” in which he was portrayed by Morgan Freeman.
Mr. Clark, who oversaw a poor, largely Black and Hispanic student body, often denounced affirmative action and welfare and “linguistic, hocus-pocus liberals.”
When “60 Minutes” profiled him in 1989, he told the correspondent Harry Reasoner: “Because we were slaves does not mean that you’ve got to be hoodlums and thugs and knock people in the head and rob people and rape people. No, I cannot accept that. And I make no more alibis for Blacks. I simply say work hard for what you want.”
A full obituary will appear soon.