From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Clark, Elmer S., Jr.

(born: Oct. 6, 1929  -  died: Apr. 10, 2016) 

Elmer S. Clark, Jr. was a noted horseman who had been an athlete, educator, and coach. He was the first African American to become a peri-mutual judge of harness racing in the United States.

Clark was sponsored by the Sportsman's Park when he attended the Harness Horse School in Columbus, OH, which prepared him to become a peri-mutual judge. He was also a paddock, placing, and senior Judge over the Chicago Trotting Horse Circuit.

In addition, Clark was owner and trainer of his own racehorses beginning in 1962. He received his trainer's license in Chicago, racing his thoroughbred horses in locations such as Chicago, Detroit, and Atlantic City as well as in Canada. He bought yearlings and trained them himself. His first horse was named Calico; his other horses included Super Chief, Road Man, and his last horse, Mr. Bo Jo. Clark was fairly successful with his racehorses with 30-40 winners, including Tide Me Over. In 1990, he retired from the horse industry.

Elmer S. Clark, Jr. was born in Louisville, KY, the son of Elmer S. (d. 1984) and Mary F. Ross Clark. He was raised in Lexington, KY. His father, Elmer  Sr., was a jockey and trainer who won the first race at North Aurora Exhibition Park [later Aurora Downs] near Chicago. In the 1930s, Clark Sr. was issued a jockey's license in Florida (possibly the first African American to receive such a license in that state), but it was revoked when it was learned that he was an African American. His racing career over, he moved to New York, where he had a limousine service.

His son Elmer Jr. was around horses most of his life; uncles on both sides of the family were grooms. When he was a teenager, Clark Jr. was an exercise rider at Keeneland and also worked on Calumet Farm. He was mentored by Ben Jones and worked with the horses Citation, Coaltown, Ponder, and many others. He worked with African American trainers and grooms such as Henry and Ernest Louden, Theopilus Irvin, and William Perry Smith, the trainer for Burnt Cork, a horse that ran in the 1943 Kentucky Derby.

Clark left the racetrack to go to college, becoming the first member of his family to attend college. He enrolled at Kentucky State [now Kentucky State University] in 1948 on a football scholarship; he had graduated from old Dunbar High School in Lexington, where he was coached in football by Norman Passmore and in basketball by S. T. Roach. In college, Clark was the quarterback of the football team that won the 1948 post-season tournament known as Little Brown Jug, defeating  Tennessee State A & I [now Tennessee State University]. His team also won the Vulcan Bowl in January 1949, defeating North Carolina A & T. After one year at Kentucky State College, Clark went back to working with horses for a year, and in 1951 was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving until 1953. Clark did some boxing while in the Army. He fought in three battles during the Korean War and received an honorable discharge.

Clark then returned to Kentucky State College where he was on the boxing, track, and football teams, serving as an assistant for the basketball team as well. He lettered in basketball, football, and boxing.

After Clark graduated from Kentucky State College in 1956, S. T. Roach made him aware of three job openings. Clark took a teaching job in Franklin, KY, where he was also the school's football and basketball coach. While in Franklin, he met and married Catherine Sloss; in 2012 the couple had been married for 54 years. Catherine was a school teacher in her home town of Franklin.

After a year of teaching in Franklin, Elmer and Catherine moved to Chicago, where Catherine was hired as a teacher in the Chicago Public School System. Elmer was employed at Schlitz Brewing Company, where he was the first African American to work for the advertising and marketing department, promoting Schlitz beer to wholesalers from 120th Street to the Loop. 

After four years with Schlitz, Clark, Jr. also became a school teacher at Dunbar High School in Chicago and coaching football and basketball. He was teaching school during the same period that he was buying and racing his racehorses.

Elmer S. Clark, Jr. was recognized by the Bluegrass Black Business Association in 1993 as an outstanding African American owner and trainer of thoroughbred horses. In 1996, Clark was recognized at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, MD as an outstanding racehorse owner and trainer.

This entry was suggested by Gregory Clark, the son of Catherine and Elmer S. Clark, Jr. Gregory Clark provided background information and copies of literature, letters, and an article citation. Additional information was acquired via a telephone interview with Elmer S. Clark, Jr. on 1/24/2012.

For more see Elmer S. Clark Jr. in the online Daily Racing Form issues between 1977-1987; M. Davis, "Horseman knows the Rest of the Story," Lexington Herald-Leader, 10/10/2004, p. C1; and L. Shulman, "Last of a breed," Blood-Horse, 3/8/2003, pp. 1392-1394, 1396.

Elmer S. Clark, Jr. died April 10, 2016 and is buried at Cedar Park Cemetery in Calumet Park, IL [source: Celebrating the Life of Elmer S. Clark, Jr.,funeral program provided by Gregory A. Clark, Ed. D.].

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Simpson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
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Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Burnt Cork in Kentucky Derby, 1943
NKAA Entry: Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Lexington, KY)
NKAA Entry: Passmore, Norman L., Sr.
NKAA Entry: Roach, Sanford Thomas
NKAA Source: Daily racing form (serial)
NKAA Source: Lexington herald-leader (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Blood-horse (periodical)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Clark, Elmer S., Jr.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 22, 2024, https://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/2724.

Last modified: 2023-06-30 18:34:17