Saying goodbye to Rebecca Clark will not be easy. She was a larger than life figure, determined and sharp, with an infectious smile to the end of her days. The last time I spoke to her was on Nov. 5, the day after the election of the first black president. I asked her how Wednesday was treating her. Her reply, â€œBest day Iâ€™ve had in a long time,â€ became the headline for our lead story. She felt good. She should have. She earned it.
Even at 93, she was registering people and making sure they voted. She was thrilled to see so many young people get involved this time around, and she recalled a particularly poignant moment registering a man whoâ€™d been convicted of a felony many years back and, though he served his time, thought he could no longer vote. Ms. Clark, as nearly everyone called her, understood that connection between the personal and the political, and she was a force at both levels.
My guess is that another best day would have come in a couple of weeks, when the new president puts his hand on a bible last used by Abraham Lincoln and takes the oath of office. It would have been a fine thing to listen to how her day went.
As people gather to remember Ms. Clark, weâ€™re sure to hear more about this extraordinary womanâ€™s life in the days ahead.
Following are a few comments weâ€™ve collected so far:
â€œRebecca Clark was a friend and mentor over many years. I admired tremendously â€¦ her personal strength and her persistence in using the political process to mobilize the community and advance the cause of social justice. I and many others will continue to be inspired and challenged by her memory.â€
â€”U.S. Rep. David Price
â€œNo doubt about it, she was a pillar of our community, not only in terms of her involvement, but she was very compassionate for all people in the community. She was never too big in terms of image to greet the smallest people.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Branch of the NAACP
â€œI admired her. She was an amazing woman and did the kind of things I can only aspire to do and hope to do.â€
Community organizer, director of Empowerment, Inc.
â€œ[Her death] will be a real loss to this community. We will miss her energy, her caring and her concern for the people in this community.â€
Chairman, Employment Security Commission of North Carolina
â€œRebecca Clark was one of the giants of our community. She led the fight for fair governmental treatment and justice for all. Her work led to dramatic changes both locally and in the larger society. We have few of those giants in our midst anymore, and Rebecca will be greatly missed.â€