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Joe Clark, the baseball-bat wielding principal who inspired the movie ‘Lean on Me,’ dies at age 82


Clark was the principal of Eastside High School in Patterson, New Jersey, and his efforts to improve standards at the school earned him national attention. Clark’s approach was heavy on discipline. As the family statement noted, he expelled 300 students for “fighting, vandalism, abusing teachers, and drug possession” in one day.

“Roaming the hallways with a bullhorn and a baseball bat, Clark’s unorthodox methods won him both admirers and critics nationwide,” the statement said.

He appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1988 and the movie, “Lean on Me,” starring Morgan Freeman was released in 1989. Clark also publish a book, “Laying Down the Law” about his educational strategy at the Patterson high school.

Clark was a longtime resident of South Orange, New Jersey, but he moved to retire in Gainesville, Florida, the family said.

Clark was at home and surrounded by his family when he succumbed to his long battle with illness on Tuesday, the statement said. The family did not specify the illness.

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