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Trailblazer Clark celebrated as "pioneer"
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Former Democratic speaker pro tempore Robert Clark
AP Photo

A former Speaker Pro Tempore of the Mississippi House of Representatives is being honored as a trailblazer. MPB's Ezra Wall reports, 50 years ago Robert Clark became the first black legislator since Reconstruction. 

Heartfelt bipartisanship is evident as Republican Governor Phil Bryant speaks of Representative Robert Clark.

'In those days, lives were lost for much less than running for the House of Representatives as an African American," says Bryant. "So we are so fortunate to be able to come these fifty years later...to honor this great Mississippian and great American."

Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn calls Clark a pioneer.

"The word or origin of the word 'pioneer,'" says Gunn, "It means 'a foot soldier who prepares the way for the army. When he got elected in 1967 there was one African-American in the House of Representatives. Today there's 38."

As Clark takes the floor, the longtime Democrat talks about seeing both sides of the political spectrum.

"Yes, I am a liberal. I am open-minded," says Clark. "And I am a conservative because I don't believe in wasting anything."

Reflecting on his years of service, Clark offers advice to current lawmakers.

"Mississippi is second to no one. They have the quality of individuals to do it," says Clark. "So I would say to the present legislature...it is now in your hands."

Robert Clark served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1968 - 2004.