NFL's Saints to honor XU alum, journalist Champ Clark
Peter W. "Champ" Clark
November 27, 2011
NEW ORLEANS -Two-time Xavier University of Louisiana graduate Peter W. "Champ" Clark is one of 10 New Orleans sports journalists and publicists honored by the New Orleans Saints with press-box plaques in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Saints spokesman Justin Macione said the plaques will be displayed on the third row of the press box in time for the Saints' Monday home game against the New York Giants.
Clark, who died in 2006 at age 92, received bachelors and master's degrees in English from Xavier. He was a pioneering and award-winning African-American journalist, writing for a variety of publications and doing play-by-play of XU basketball games on radio.
The Saints Hall of Fame awarded Clark in 2001 with its Joe Gemelli Fleur De Lis Award for contributions to the franchise.
"My dad was the whole nine yards," Clark's son Mark said. "He was gumbo, he was French bread, he was a snowball, and he was a neighbor sitting on your front porch. He never stopped trying to figure out ways to improve our city."
Bill Curl, Buddy Diliberto, Peter Finney, Hap Glaudi, Wayne Mack, Bruce Miller, Bob Roesler, Jerry Romig and Frank Wilson are the Saints' other honorees.
Peter 'Champ' Clark, pioneering black journalist, author, dies
June 12, 2006
Peter W. "Champ" Clark Sr., died on Sunday, May 28, 2006, in Simmesport, Louisiana. He was 92.
The man affectionately known as "Champ" had a truly blessed life. He was born in Alexandria, Louisiana to the late Lurania Bell and Lloyd Clark. At the age of three, his parents moved the family to New Orleans.
Clark, a proud Xavier University alum and World War II veteran, devoted his life to the children of Orleans Parish as an educator for 45 years at 17 elementary, junior and senior high schools in New Orleans. During this same period Mr. Clark spent a lifetime helping people and breaking barriers as a teacher, writer, radio personality, bank executive and author. He was the charter editor of the Xavier University Herald , Xavier Alumni Voice and Xavier Poetry Society. He broke many racial barriers in the city and state by becoming the first African American radio talk show host in Louisiana. His brilliant career spanned the better part of five decades on stations such as WBOK, WNNR WXEL and WYLD. He also worked for three decades as play-by-play announcer for St. Augustine High School football games and Xavier University basketball games.
A pioneer in every sense of the word, Peter "Champ" Clark accomplished a long list of trailblazing "firsts." He was the first and only African-American recipient of the Saints Hall of Fame prestigious "Fleur De Lis" Award as well as the first and only African-American Louisiana Athletic Commissioner appointed by then-Governor Edwin Edwards to oversee professional boxing and wrestling in the state. He was the first and only African-American ring announcer for two World Championship fights (Muhammad Ali vs. Leon Spinks and Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran). He was the first African-American bank Vice President of FNBC which later became Chase Bank. He also was an award-winning author of five books including the 1941 masterpiece Arrows Of Gold. In addition to the books, Mr. Clark spent more than six decades as a sports columnist for publications such as Gridweek, The Louisiana Weekly, Data News and Sports Parade Magazine.
His role as an educator, sports journalist, pioneering radio announcer and bank executive broke racial barriers and paved the road that many African-American professionals in this city, state and nation now travel.
After graduating from Xavier Prep in 1931, Clark went on to earn his B.A. and Masters in English from Xavier University. He spent five years after college as a World War II Air Force Officer. He belonged to many civic and social clubs including the Knights Of Peter Claver, Beau Brummel Social Club and Autocrat Social Club. He also was instrumental and a big supporter in the early stages of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club including an unprecedented live radio broadcast of the entire Zulu parade, including the first interviews with one-time king Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, during the organization's formative years. Orleans Parish Civil Sheriff Paul Valteau, whose association with "Champ" Clark dates back to the days his parents played bridge with Clark, says the pioneering journalist made huge contributions to the city of New Orleans as a journalist, educator and community activist.
"His legacy as someone who worked tirelessly to empower, educate and uplift children is critical at a time when the community is struggling to find ways to support young people," Valteau told The Louisiana Weekly.
Among other things, Valteau remembers "Champ" Clark's legendary radio coverage of NORD's skooter races in the 1970s as well as being invited as a guest on many occasions by "Champ" Clark on various radio shows he hosted. He also remembers with great fondness Clark's storied coverage of Xavier University basketball games and St. Augustine High School football games at a time when the Purple Knights were perennial contenders.
Clark brought media exposure and recognition to African-American athletes at a time when they were being largely ignored by mainstream media, Valteau explained.
"He was the voice of black high school sports for many years," legendary restaurateur Wayne Baquet Sr. told The Louisiana Weekly. "He did it all. He announced all of our high school football games for St. Augustine, Joseph S. Clark and McDonogh 35. He was the voice back in the day on the radio before integration. He was the man; he did it all." "I was in high school during his heyday," Baquet, a 1965 St. Aug graduate, recalls. "He really and truly was the voice for sports in New Orleans' black community at a time when nobody else was concerned about black athletics.
"It was actually Peter "Champ" Clark and The Louisiana Weekly," Baquet added. "If you wanted to read about our sports and our games, you couldn't read about it in The Times-Piacyune."
Baquet praised Clark for his untiring efforts to challenge young people to reach their full potential. "He made it his life's vocation to help in every way that he could," Baquet told The Louisiana Weekly. "He was critical, a pioneer, in seeing that kids were physically and mentally active all his life. He made it his career."
Baquet remembers "Champ" Clark visiting St. Aug to speak to him and his classmates to share his experiences with future generations of black community leaders. "He was a role model for all of the high school and junior high school kids, he was a role model in every way," he said.
Baquet said he is concerned about how little is being done these days to uplift New Orleans youth compared to what "Champ" Clark and others did in the past. "It's gone, it's a lost thing," he said. "It's that important. Especially with this Katrina thing right now. We have an opportunity now to try to get our schools straightened out, to bring it back to the way it was when 'Champ' Clark and all the other people were really making a difference in the black community. We have a chance to put trade schools back into our schools, which we took out. We need role models very badly.
"This community owes 'Champ' Clark a lot," he continued. "He was always working hard to see that education and sports were at the forefront for our children."
Peter "Champ" Clark spent the final months of his life following Hurricane Katrina in Marksville, Louisiana in the loving care of his wife Katherine, youngest son Mark and daughter-in-law Marcy. He requested that the following lines from one of his poems in the book Arrows Of Gold be read: No star will set when I am gone-For I am but a candle. No flags will fly when I depart-For, I wear no hero's mantle. My faith is no fragile thing, like a leaf in an autumns blast; But a dream sail of infinite planning, Hitched to Heaven's top most -mast!
Those who knew him say that while Peter "Champ" Clark is no longer among the living, he will never be forgotten by the many New Orleanians whose lives he touched.
"The community as a whole is poorer for having lost Peter "Champ" Clark but we are richer for having benefited from his efforts to preserve the city's African-American history and culture, support the efforts of young people and expand opportunities in journalism for people of color," Valteau said. "We owe a tremendous debt to community giants like Peter "Champ" Clark and the late Morris F.X. Jeff Sr. who devoted their lives to the children of New Orleans," Valteau added.
Baquet said that countless thousands of New Orleans graduates from the pre-Civil Rights era can speak with great fondness and familiarity about the contributions of Clark. "Everybody knows him," he said emphatically.
"What I will miss most about 'Champ' is the fact that it is amazing that he never stopped trying," Baquet told The Louisiana Weekly. "He never stopped trying to be the voice of the black community. He never stopped telling people that 'These are the things that we need to do...' He tried to give us our equal rights in sports. He never stopped trying. I think he's irreplaceable."
Having had time to reflect on his father's legacy since Hurricane Katrina, Mark Clark says he learned the importance of finding a way to uplift the community." He taught me that you always give back, you never forget where you come from, your roots," he told The Louisiana Weekly. "He taught me to always look to children to be the future leaders of the community. He thought that sometimes we get caught up in modern technology and all the progress we've made and forget about the core values of helping and teaching children. He never turned his back on those kinds of principles. He instilled in me the need to always give back and never do it for monetary purposes. You do it for what's right, what's right for your people and your community."
Mark Clark said he is especially proud of the many people from all walks of life and professions who remember his father for making a difference in their lives. "They can be CEOs, bank tellers or bricklayers...all of them say, 'I remember your dad.' They remember him for something of value that he taught them. They may remember him for something he taught them in a classroom setting, in a professional environment or in a casual encounter. All those skills served him well in life, well beyond the role of sports."
Mark Clark says he was moved by a recent conversation he had with former WDSU sports anchor who told him, " 'If not for him (Champ Clark), there would be no me.' Taking it a step further, it it were not for people of my dad's era, the progress that we have made would not have been possible. We should always remember and honor that."
A scholarship will be established in Peter 'Champ' Clark's name, benefiting students from St. Augustine High School, Xavier Preparatory School and St. Mary's Academy.
Those interested in contributing to the scholarship fund should contact Mark Clark at email@example.com.
He is survived by his loving and incredible wife of 64 years, Katherine Martin Clark; sons, Malik Hakim, Peter, Paul, and Mark Vincent Clark; daughters, Kuishi Paine and Anne Bonner; seven grandchildren, two step grandchildren and three nieces. A memorial service will be held Saturday, June 17, in New Orleans at St. Leo the Great at 11:30am.
Additional reporting by Louisiana Weekly Editor Edmund W. Lewis.