PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Augusta “Gussie” Clark, a former Philadelphia city councilwoman who was a staunch advocate for public schools, has died. She was 81.
Clark died Sunday at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood. Clark worked as a librarian and lawyer before serving 20 years on City Council after her election in 1980. She was then only the second black woman elected to the council, as a Democrat at-large.
Clark was born in Uniontown, Ala., before her family moved to Fairmont, W.Va., where she would graduate from West Virginia State College.
She moved to Philadelphia to work as an assistant at Color magazine, a publication modeled after Life, but which targeted black readers. When the publication folded, Clark earned a master’s degree in library science from Drexel University and later, at age 39, a law degree from Temple University.
Clark opposed school vouchers and helped pass a 10 percent liquor tax to help fund the school system.
City Council President Darrell Clarke issued a statement saying voters often assumed —despite the different spellings of their last names — that he was Clark’s son.
“She was so popular back then with residents, I have to admit at times I was tempted to not correct them,” Clarke said.
Clark worked for U.S. Rep. William H. Gray before she was elected to the city council, and U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., called Clark a “dedicated public servant.”
“Everyone she touched knew of her passion for education, and she will be forever recognized for her tireless work improving the city’s public schools,” Fattah said.
The Philadelphia Inquirer said Clark was satisfied with her two decades on council when she retired in 2000.
“I think elected office is like poker,” she told the newspaper then. “I think you have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. And when you feel you have amassed a body of work that satisfies you.”
Clark is survived by her son, Mark; a daughter, Adrienne; and four grandchildren. Her husband, Leroy W. Clark, died in 2007.