Mr. Lonnie E. Clark, 70 of Urbana passed this life Friday, December 10, 2010 at Provena Covenant Medical Center, Urbana, IL. Lonnie E. Clark, Sr. was born May 18, 1940 in Champaign, Illinois, to the union of Rev. Jesse D. Clark and Erma D. Luter Clark. He was the eighth child of this union.
Lonnie married Joan Graham on July 21, 1962. To this union, two children were born: Jeffrey L. Clark (Bernita), Savoy, IL, and Lonnie E. Clark II, Urbana, IL. He leaves to cherish his memories his wife, children, two brothers (Jesse D. Clark (Lucille), Urbana, IL; Clyde Warren Clark (Isola), life-long friend Thomas Brown, and a host of relatives and friends.
Lonnie accepted Christ at an early age under the leadership of Rev. E. Kilgore, then Pastor of Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, Champaign, IL. His father was a watchman for the development of Burch Village and his family was the first to occupy an apartment there. Lonnie attended Champaign schools and graduated from Champaign High School in 1959. He accepted a scholarship to play football and run track at St. Augustines College in Raleigh, NC and completed additional advanced coursework at the Institute of Labor and Industry at the University of Illinois. He later received a degree in Political Science at Eastern Illinois University.
During the 1960's, when local residents were picketing certain businesses (i.e., Goldblatt's, Sears and J.C. Penney's) that refused to hire Blacks in prominent positions, Lonnie participated in the protest of the hiring practices of these organizations. As a result, Lonnie was the first African American hired at Goldblatt's Department Store, located then at Country Fair in Champaign, and within six months was promoted to the position of Manager of the men's clothing department.
With a growing interest in the plight of his community and various civic concerns, Lonnie entered the public arena as an advocate for human rights. Thus, he made the following achievements: One of the founders of the Frances Nelson Health Center; Chairman of the Board of Directors for Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC), founded by the late Dr. Leon Sullivan; Member of the committee to establish the first "Black Mom's Day" weekend at the University of Illinois; Assisted in the programming for students in the initial Project 500 EOP Program at the University of Illinois; Member of the Douglas Center Advisory Committee; Elected President of the Illinois Affirmative Action Association for the State of Illinois; First African American appointed to the City of Urbana Plan Commission; Served two 4-year elected terms on the City of Urbana City Council representing Ward 3, and as Alderman introduced legislation to designate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a holiday for the City of Urbana, that was approved unanimously October 20, 1986; Successfully led the demonstration to close an adult bookstore located on Goodwin and University Avenues in proximity of Peter Pan Day Care Center and King School; and in 2002 was selected by The News-Gazette as one of "150 Most Important People in Champaign County".
Lonnie Clark was President and co-owner with J.W. Pirtle, Treasurer, of WBCP 1580-AM; East Central Illinois' first African American owned radio station. The radio station is still strong over 20 years. Lonnie was also active in the following affiliations: DUC Golf Club; Community Reinvestment Act Advisory Board to Busey Bank; Board of Directors of Champaign County Crimestoppers; Member National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Member Urban League of Champaign County; Member Foundation for Provena Covenant Medical Center; and Life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Lonnie retired from the University of Illinois after 33 years as Labor Relations Specialist, and remained active in his quest for equal opportunities in his community.
Lonnie had a passion for golf, and those who knew him well knew that if it was a good day to be outside, there was a golf course calling Lonnie by name. He loved sports, dance and music, particularly smooth jazz. And as strong as his passion was for these things, his love of family and friends was greater. He was a patriarch; well respected by family, friends, and community. He was an advocate for the people, and did his best to help others in their quest for excellence and a better life.
He was preceded in death by his parents, five sisters (Rosalee Virginia Clark, Imogene Casmer, Carolyne Wilson, Ruth DeShong, and Lucille Roberts) and one brother (Marvin Clark).
Memorials may be made in his honor to the Don Moyer's Boys & Girls Club, and the Crisis Nursery.
Funeral services for Lonnie E. Clark, Sr., 70, of Urbana, will be held Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, 808 E. Bradley Avenue, Champaign, IL. Visitation will commence Friday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Church and 10am Saturday December 18, 2010 until the time of the service. Leek & Sons Funeral Home, 304 E. Williams Street, Danville, IL, are in charge of funeral arrangements. Officiating: Bishop Lloyd Gwin. Internment: Roselawn Cemetery.