Journal editorial: That other famous Muscatine resident

2010-02-25T10:40:00Z Journal editorial: That other famous Muscatine resident Muscatine Journal
February 25, 2010 10:40 am

Please consider, if you will, two of the most-famous men who have ever called Muscatine home: Samuel Clemens and Alexander G. Clark.

Clemens arrived here after his older brother, Orion, became a part-owner in 1853 of the newspaper that would become the Muscatine Journal. The younger Clemens, who would become world-famous as writer Mark Twain, was 18.

From Dec. 16, 1853 through March 15, 1855, he published eight stories in the Muscatine newspaper -a total of about 5,800 words.

The stories were filed from Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, where the writer worked as a journeyman printer. But he lived in Muscatine during part of the summer of 1855 -long enough to later observe:

"And I remember Muscatine-still more pleasantly-for its summer sunsets. I have never seen any, on either side of the ocean, that equaled them ... The sunrises are also said to be exceedingly fine. I do not know. "

The quote is still recited often in Muscatine, where it serves as a foundation, of sorts, for whatever tourism exists here. He will never be forgotten in Muscatine or at the Journal, where we still publish his likeness on every Opinion page.

Clark, however, isn't as well remembered in Muscatine -and that's too bad. A local group of his supporters are aiming to boost his legacy by creating the Alexander G. Clark Heritage District in the neighborhood where he lived. We applaud their effort.

Clark, who was born on Feb. 25, 1826, in Washington County, Pa., arrived in Muscatine in 1842, when the community was still known as Bloomington. He was 16.

Before he died in Monrovia, Liberia, on June 3, 1891, at age 65, Clark had:

— Fought to get his son, Alexander Jr., admitted to the University of Iowa's law school. Alexander G. Clark Jr. became the first black person to graduate from that school. The elder Clark became the second black U of I law graduate in 1884, graduating eighth in a class of 80.

— Organized the 1st Iowa Volunteers of African Descent during the Civil War (later redesignated the 60th Regiment Infantry, United States Colored Troops), a Union regiment of 1,100 black soldiers from Iowa and Missouri.

— Successfully sued the Muscatine school district - which had denied to admit Clark's 12-year-old daughter, Susan - in a case that ultimately was decided by the Iowa Supreme Court on June 4, 1868.

— Served as U.S. ambassador to Liberia after being appointed by President Harrison on Aug. 16, 1890.

Any community would be proud to claim someone who achieved the level of success and prominence that Clark earned. That he was a black man who lived more than half of his life before the abolition of slavery makes Clark's accomplishments even more impressive.

Only time will tell if the Alexander G. Clark Heritage District will boost tourism in Muscatine. But if you want people to visit your community, you have to give them something to see and do. This is a step in that direction - one that is long overdue because of the way it recognizes someone whose life story is an important part of Muscatine's history.

Copyright 2015 Muscatine Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. onlinereader
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    onlinereader - February 25, 2010 11:49 am
    Very informative. Sadly, I must admit that as an adult in the mid thirties, I have never heard of this man, nor his legacy. I am going to be sure to have both of my school aged daughters read this editorial so they will know of this man. I wonder if children are learning of this in school.
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