Golden Panthers: James L. Clark ’62
With Golden Panthers fast becoming the largest and most motivated group of Ferrum College alumni, they have become an example of commitment and enthusiasm to younger Panthers. Clark encourages Golden Panthers to attend athletic events and the Blue Ridge Performing Arts Series and to stay current on Ferrum goings-on. He has plans to organize short trips to interesting locations and requests that members please come forward with new ideas for gatherings.
Jim Clark chose to attend Ferrum College for one reason and graduated with a newfound purpose. A lifelong resident of Martinsville, he lived nearby—and Ferrum would fulfill his desire to play basketball. “I was quiet, not exactly the best student in high school. I cared more about playing ball than studying,” says Clark. “Ferrum was good for me. I felt like all my classmates were on equal footing as far as social status, and that made me feel more confident in my own abilities.”
Like all students at the time, Clark had a campus job, and his assignment taught him more than just how to clean the basement rooms and boys’ lavatories in John Wesley Hall. He recalls it as “not the choicest duty” but one that taught tolerance, attention to detail, and perseverance—not to mention cleaning skills that would come in handy later in life!
His fondest memories of living on campus include his friendships with classmates (many of whom have remained friends throughout the past 50 years); professors, and coaches, like Hank Norton, Gene Evans, and Raymond Holmes, who “actually cared about students”; and, of course, lettering in basketball and serving as secretary of the Varsity Club. He hopes that with assistance from Golden Panther Scholarship funds, current and future Ferrum students will be able to have the same positive experience.
After graduation from Ferrum in 1962, Clark went on to complete his studies at Lynchburg College and, intending to teach and coach, majored in education. He co-captained the basketball team, becoming the leading scorer in his senior year, and was selected to the First-Team All-Dixie Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (now USA South).
Clark began his career at the Tultex Corporation, running machines in the cutting room of the apparel manufacturer. He retired after 36 years of service as the director of apparel sewing, overseeing four plants and almost 1,000 employees. His community involvement has included coaching youth basketball, baseball, and football plus longtime involvement with both the Martinsville Jaycees and the Martinsville Lions Club, where his tenure included serving terms as president of both groups. He was awarded the Melvin Jones Fellowship by the Lions Club International, and was the co-chair of the United States Bicentennial celebration for Martinsville/Henry County and the past president of the Forest Park Country Club and member of their board of directors.
A huge bluegrass music fan, Clark is a member of the board of directors of Art of the Rives and is a founder and organizer of Bluegrass at the Rives, a monthly bluegrass concert at the historic Rives Theatre. In 2011, he was named the Volunteer of the Year, Martinsville Uptown.
Clark looks back on his experiences at Ferrum College as “character building and a foundation for self-assurance” that he’d previously never experienced. He was surprised by the realization that he could actually succeed as a student, as an athlete, and as a leader. This unexpected inspiration, nurtured by the supportive campus community and caring professors, continues to guide his perspective today.
Clark’s family includes his wife of 49 years, Mary Ann Porter Clark; two children, Mary Catherine Clark (deceased) and James Lee Clark III; daughter-in-law Elaine; and two grandsons, Ryan and Seth.