The Times West Virginian


October 17, 2013

Augusta Clark

Augusta Alexander Clark, affectionately known as “Gussie,” was born on March 5, 1932 to the late Harrison and Lula B. Alexander in Uniontown, Ala.

Gussie, the second of four children born to the Alexanders, was an incandescent spirit who loved life and was a blessing in the lives of many.

The Lord, in full recognition of a job well done, called Gussie home early Sunday morning (Oct. 13, 2013), leaving her adopted “City of Brother Love (and Sisterly Affection)” to celebrate and bid farewell to one of its most beloved sisters.

Gussie was raised in Fairmont by parents with strong Christian values and an indomitable work ethic and who instilled in their children the thirst for learning. Growing up, the Alexander girls were widely known in Fairmont as “the smart Alexander sisters.”

Gussie, after graduating from high school with honors, attended West Virginia State College, where she graduated with a degree in business administration. She went on to earn a Master’s of Library Science Degree from Drexel University, a law degree from Temple University Law School and numerous honorary doctorate degrees.

Having accepted Christ into her life at an early age, Gussie was a devoted member of Philadelphia’s Bright Hope Baptist Church for over 50 years, where she served as a trustee for many years. Bright Hope was the spiritual headquarters of Gussie Clark’s life here on Earth. She was mentored by the late Rev. Dr. William H. Gray Jr., upon her arrival in Philadelphia, and she cherished her long friendship with his son, the late Rev. William H. Gray III, who called Gussie his “big sister.” 

While at West Virginia State College, Gussie spied a handsome young man named Leroy Clark; however, Gussie, armed with her business degree, was heading to Philadelphia to work for “Color” magazine. No time for romance, she reasoned. But, unbeknownst to both Gussie and Leroy, they were both destined to end up in the big city. Romance quickly blossomed, and they were married on June 22, 1959, at Bright Hope.

To this union was born two children, Mark and Adrienne. To know Gussie was to know how much she deeply loved her family: Leroy, Mark, Adrienne and her grandchildren, siblings and other extended family members. Gussie was a quintessentially loyal friend to many.

After successful stints as a librarian and an engineer, at age 39, Gussie went back to school and earned a law degree from Temple University School of Law, modeling a career path for several of her younger relatives. A friend and an admirer of the late Dr. Ethel Allen, the first African-American woman to serve on Philadelphia’s city council, Gussie picked up the mantel and, in 1979, campaigned under the slogan “A Breath of Fresh Air,” became the second African-American woman to do so. Her drive and support in that bid made her the highest vote-getter in the general election that fall. A prolific campaigner, Gussie believed that every eligible voter needed a “Clark for City Council” button and she would promptly pin a button on them.

Gussie’s intellect and quick wit impressed everyone she met and she was known for her “Gussie-ism’s,” witticisms delivered with a knowing smile.

Gussie quickly became a VIP and was invited to many exclusive events, including an affair at the White House by then President Jimmy Carter. A beautiful and stylish lady, she loved a party and could plan one whether from her city council desk, kitchen table, a moving car or hospital bed. She would ring you on the phone and ask, “Are you coming to my party?”

During the 20 years that Gussie served in city council, she focused her energy on improving the city’s public schools and revitalizing the poor and underdeveloped communities throughout Philadelphia. Gussie was responsible for jump starting numerous careers. She championed women’s rights, was an advocate for educational access and a tireless fighter for economic justice.

Notably, she successfully fought for African-Americans and women to be admitted to the Union League of Philadelphia, a privilege now enjoyed by many businesspeople of color. As well, Gussie loved the Franklin Institute and, as a long-serving trustee, significantly increased access to Philadelphia’s minority community.

Gussie was a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. Sorority, a founding member of Pennsylvania chapter of the Coalition of 100 African-American Women, a member of the Delaware Chapter of the Links, Inc., an honorary member of the board of trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and was heralded in 2000 as a History Maker.

Gussie was joyfully welcomed in heaven by her beloved parents, Harrison and Lula B. Alexander; her husband, Leroy Clark; her brother. Harrison Ronald (“Ronnie”) Alexander; her niece, Karen Kyle Crockett; and many other loved ones.

She leaves to celebrate her memory two loving children, Mark Leroy (Tracey) and Adrienne Yvette; effervescent grandchildren, Ayanna Belle, Chloe Elyse, Ahmad Scott, Michael Alexander and Troy Carter; her two exquisite sisters, Mary Dean Kyle (Nicholas) of Coral Springs, Fla., and Velma Buckner (Donald) of Silver Spring, Md.; and a host of nieces, cousins, family and friends.

A viewing will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Terry Funeral Home Memorial Chapel, 4203-05 Haverford Ave., Philadelphia. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday with viewing from 8 to 10 a.m at Bright Hope Baptist Church, 1601 North 12th St., Philadelphia. Interment will follow at Ivy Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.

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