Flozella Eleanor Riddle Clark, 75, civil rights activist She headed Family and Children's Society, then worked in real estate

January 09, 1996|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Flozella Eleanor Riddle Clark, a civil rights activist who had a long career with the Family and Children's Society of Baltimore and later in real estate, died after suffering a heart attack Jan. 2 while visiting a daughter in Los Angeles. She was 75.

She turned in her real estate license in 1994 after about 20 years, said the daughter, Veronica Hudson. But people continued to call, and the semiretired Mrs. Clark would help them with the paperwork and financing needed to buy the home.

Mrs. Clark, who had lived since 1948 in the 2000 block of Wheeler Ave., had been married for 53 years to Harold Alexander Clark, a retired school principal.

Mrs. Clark was closely associated with Baltimore's Mitchell family and the Baltimore NAACP in the battle for desegregation -- picketing theaters, restaurants and other segregated facilities such as the old Gwynn Oak amusement park; registering voters; and supporting black candidates and causes.

She was born in Notasulga, Ala., and attended high school at the Louisiana Negro Normal School. In 1940, she earned a teaching degree at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State Teacher's College.

In 1942, she earned a master's degree in social work at Atlanta University, then moved to Baltimore to begin her first career. She earned an advanced certificate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work in 1955.

She became director of protective services for the Family and Children's Society in 1943, working with abused and neglected children for 28 years. She and her staff of four placed black children in adoptive homes, worked with single mothers, counseled hundreds of families and worked with students of social work from several area universities.

In 1960, she was named Maryland's delegate to the White House Conference on Children and Youth. She was named to the city's Task Force on Human Rights by Mayor William Donald Schaefer and to terms on the Maryland Human Rights Commission by Gov. Harry Hughes and Gov. Marvin Mandel.

In the late 1940s, she founded the Northwest Child Study Club, in which women took their children on field trips, such as those to New York and Washington that she recalled from her childhood. The women still meet, doing the same for their grandchildren, Mrs. Hudson said.

She also served on the boards of agencies for the aged, children, veterans and the handicapped, and had received numerous awards, Mrs. Hudson said.

Mrs. Clark also served on the advisory board of Advance Federal Savings and Loan Association from 1968 until 1983. In the 1970s, she was vice president of the Associated Negro Appeal Inc.

In 1974, after trips to Europe, Africa and China, Mrs. Clark decided to make a career change and became a licensed real estate agent, Mrs. Hudson said.

Also in the 1970s, Mrs. Clark was office manager for the successful 1972 congressional campaign of Parren J. Mitchell.

Former state Sen. Michael B. Mitchell Sr., the Mitchell family's historian, said Mrs. Clark worked in an NAACP voter-registration effort that saw more than 5,000 people sign up in a two-day period -- and helped launch many of the city's black politicians.

"But she really made her major impact with the Family and Children's Society," Mr. Mitchell said. "She was placing black children for adoption. It was really quite a crusade."

Former state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell III said, "She worked side by side with my late mother, Juanita Jackson Mitchell. Flo was one of the leaders of the Baltimore NAACP."

Mrs. Clark also helped found the Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum in 1975, honoring Clarence and Michael Mitchell's grandmother for revitalizing the local NAACP.

As the historic Brown vs. Board of Education case moved through the courts, the women raised money in the churches so that their attorney, Thurgood Marshall, could pay to have the legal briefs printed, Michael Mitchell said.

Mrs. Hudson remembered going with her mother to picket, especially one incident in which her fair-skinned mother was seated for food service but she was not. "I think the lady got a little confused. I was 14 or 15, and I said, 'But you served my mom.' "

Anne Osborn Emery, a consultant and president of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, said Mrs. Clark was one of the first black social workers in the area.

"She was a real Southern belle," Dr. Emery said. "She supervised 600 to 700 families in her care and helped students from the Catholic University and Howard University school of social work."

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday at St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic Church, Windsor Avenue at Hilton Street.

In addition to her husband and daughter, Mrs. Clark is survived by two other daughters, Maria Clark of Adelphi and Harolyn Clark of Whittier, Calif; three grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

The family has established a fund for scholarships and civil rights -- the Flozella R. Clark Memorial -- through the NAACP, 4805 Mount Hope Drive, Baltimore 21215.

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