John Raymond "Johnny Ray" Clark (born May 3, 1963) is the current junior US Senator for the state of Alabama, serving in that capacity since January 3, 2005. Prior to the Senate, he was the U.S. Rep. for Alabama's Huntsville-based 5th District from 1999-2005, becoming the first Nationalist to serve as the Representative for that district in Alabama state history. In 2008, Clark was the running mate for Patrick R. Mead in the 2008 Presidential election, becoming the first Alabamian to appear on a major party ticket. As he is of partially Seminole ancestry on his paternal side, Clark is regarded as the first mixed-race or person of color to appear on a major party ticket.
Clark was well known in Alabama for his time as the quarterback at Auburn University in the early to mid-1980s, taking part in the 1982 and 1983 Auburn victories over the Alabama Crimson Tide, the first victories for the Tigers in the series since 1969. He attended Virginia Law School, where he was one class above current House Minority Leader Stephen Colbert (D-SC), and worked at the Huntsville civil law firm Coble & Partners in the late 1980s, and later clerked for the Alabama Supreme Court and was made Deputy Attorney General for the Public Corruption Division in 1995, the youngest to ever receive such an appointment.
Personal and Early Life
Clark was born to James Edward "Jed" Clark, Sr. and Emilia Thorne in Huntsville, Alabama on May 3, 1963. His father was a prominent doctor in Huntsville and his mother was the principal of Huntsville High School. Clark has mentioned that he has a deep respect for teachers and educators due to his mother. His paternal grandmother was a Seminole Indian who moved to Pensacola and married his grandfather, Robert James Clark III, in 1914 - Clark has spoken at length about his Native American heritage and is an official member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. He attended Huntsville High School, where he played football, basketball and baseball.
College Football Career
Clark accepted a scholarship to Auburn University, then a member of the Big-8. In 1981 he played in two games, and in 1982 he became the starter, alongside lifelong friend and superstar Bo Jackson. They helped defeat Alabama in the 1982 Iron Bowl, making the 1982 Tigers the first team since 1969, and only the second Auburn team since 1957, to defeat Alabama. In 1983 they would repeat the feat, with Jackson setting the Iron Bowl rushing record. Clark, who during his college career went by "Johnny Ray Clark," became known for scrambling and throwing the ball on the run. He led Auburn to three straight winning seasons as its starting quarterback, including Big-8 championships in 1983 and 1984. He was undefeated against Auburn's other main rivals, Georgia Tech and Southern Miss, in his years as a starter and is the only quarterback in Auburn history to win three games against Georgia Tech and win two games on the road at Georgia Tech. His #4 jersey was retired in 1990.
Early Political Career
Clark applied to various law schools while trying out for the 1985 Common Draft. Though he was picked late in the eighth round by the Chicago Bears, he was accepted to Virginia Law and never reported for camp nor tried out for any other teams, despite the Tennessee Titans drafting his rights in 1987. At Virginia Law, Clark was in the same law class as future Pacifica Supreme Court Justice Mike Fitch, and was one class ahead of Stephen Colbert, the current House Minority Leader. Clark has remained close friends with both and was elected Class Secretary for the Graduating Class of 1988.
After graduating from Virginia Law, Clark was given a job at the prestigious Huntsville civil law firm Coble & Partners, where he was a junior associate until passing the Alabama State Bar in early 1989. In 1991, he left the firm to clerk for Arnold R. Vincent, then the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He briefly left his position to serve as Assistant Counsel for the campaign of Fob James in the 1994 Alabama gubernatorial election. Following the victorious James campaign, Clark was appointed Deputy Attorney General of Alabama for Public Corruption in 1995, the youngest person to ever hold that post, only 31 upon his appointment. Clark was accused during his tenure at the AG's office of prosecuting notable Democrats more aggressively than Nationalists, a controversy that would re-arise during his run for public office in 1998 and 2004.
U.S. House of Representatives
Clark announced in March of 1998 that he was resigning from the Public Corruption division to run for the 5th Congressional District of Alabama, where he would face the embattled first-term Democratic incumbent Paul Whittier. Whittier, who had replaced Bud Cramer after the former ran for Senate in 1996 to replace the outgoing Howell Heflin, had been indicted on federal corruption charges over a real estate scam he was alleged to have been a party to. Controversy was incited in the Nationalist primary when State Senator J.T. Cowans raised the question of a conflict of interest in that Clark had investigated Whittier and that his "legal files could be used as opposition research, which is a crime." Cowans also dismissed Clark as a "state school scholarship athlete" and cited his time as student body president at the University of Alabama, earning the ire of not only Auburn fans but also eliciting accusations of elitism. Clark narrowly defeated Cowans and went on to defeat Whittier in the November election with 57% of the vote in one of the dirtiest and most negative elections in Alabama history. AL-5 became the only district in the country to flip from Democrat to Nationalist in the 1998 midterms, which saw Democrats retake several seats throughout the South and the House in general.
Clark was a prime target in the 2000 and 2002 midterms, never winning with more than 52% of the vote against Parker Griffith in both elections. He was a backbencher his entire career, though he was appointed to both the prestigious Ways and Means Committee as well as the pertinent Native American Affairs Committee, and he was amongst the speakers at the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in July of 2004. Clark sponsored and wrote no major legislation in his time in the U.S. House, and voted with his party 96% of the time.
In 2004, incumbent Senator Jim Folsom announced his retirement after 24 years in the Senate. Clark announced he would be running for the seat two days later, becoming the first Nationalist to throw his hat in the ring. Alabama Senate Minority Leader Pat Faust announced he would run as well, setting up a competitive primary on the National Party side.