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House Speaker Biographies

Photo credit:

Isenberg, Britt. "Find A Grave - Millions of Cemetery Records." November 25, 2012.  www.findagrave.com


Photo credit:

Isenberg, Britt. "Find A Grave - Millions of Cemetery Records." November 25, 2012.  www.findagrave.com

 

John Clark

Born: November 30, 1822, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA.  Died: May 30, 1872, Holmesburg, Philadelphia County, PA.  Member of the House: Philadelphia County, 1868-1869. Affiliation: Republican.

John Clark was born into an Irish-American family and became a contractor after finishing his common school education.  Before working on some well-known projects such as the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Hudson River Railroad, the Croton Waterworks in New York City, and Boston Waterworks, Clark worked in construction with his father on public projects.  Clark also served on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and the Philadelphia Common Council.  While working on an early project for the Welland Canal in Canada, John Clark married the former Elizabeth M. Stephenson from Ontario, Canada.  The couple had one son, George Stephenson Clark, who himself was a member of the Pennsylvania House representing Philadelphia from 1881-1884.

With the start of the Civil War in 1861, Clark volunteered with a company of volunteers raised from the Holmesburg area, and was unanimously elected captain.  The company was incorporated in the 3rd Regiment as Company E, Pennsylvania Reserves (32nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry).  Clark was eventually promoted to lieutenant colonel on July 10, 1862, and commanded his regiment at Antietam, where he was wounded. Later in 1862 Clark was detached from his regiment and received orders from the War Department to assist in the constructing of military railroads.  He continued with service in that capacity until the end of his military service. 

Clark was elected to represent the 17th District of Philadelphia on October 8, 1867, and was re-elected the following year.  As a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Clark served on various committees including the Ways and Means, Mining and Manufacturing, and Railroad Committees. 

On January 5, 1869, Clark was elected as the 88th Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, defeating fellow Philadelphian Samuel Josephs.  The House was busy during Clark’s tenure as Speaker, passing more than 1,300 bills that eventually became laws.  In addition to state laws, Joint Resolution 4 was passed by the legislature to ratify the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution on March 26, 1869.  The 15th Amendment prohibited federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude,” and formally became part of the Constitution on March 30, 1870.

Just 3 years after serving as the Speaker of the House, John Clark died at the age of 49 on May 30, 1872.  He is interred in Emmanuel Churchyard in Holmesburg, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.


Historical Member Biography

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