RICHMOND (KPIX 5) — If you live in Richmond, you probably know the name Emma Jean Clark. As Elizabeth Cook shows us, she’s been a beloved public servant for more than 40 years, and this week’s Bay Area Jefferson Award winner.
For Emma Jean Clark, Richmond isn’t just her home.
“Richmond is the best city, the best weather, the best,” she said. “Yes, I love my city.”
She moved here 42 years ago, and almost immediately became a part of it.
“I became an integral part of many of the organizations in the city,” Clark said.
She was a secretary at her local church, and later became the first African American female library director.
Clark doesn’t look at her various jobs as work. She sees them as a platform to help people.
Richmond city councilman Nathanial Bates said, “She works with all segments of the community. She’s all over the place. She is really more important to the community than the elected officials.”
Clark’s outreach to the community really began at the Richmond Library. She saw this as a place not only to enrich your mind, but a place where you could help change your life.
“The library, I feel, is the place where people go when you don’t know where to go,” Clark said. “And the library is one of the best kept secrets in any city.”
On her own, Clark began tutoring local students after school and mentoring at-risk youth.
And one time, she even helped reunite a mother with her son after they had been separated for 25 years.
“The Lord gave me the gift of help,” Clark said.
One of her most tangible contributions to the city was the establishment of a library and museum dedicated to her mentor, Dr. Mattie McGlothen.
McGlothen founded several Church of God and Christ parishes around the country, including Richmond. She was also known around the world as a religious humanitarian.
“She was a woman who loved God and loved God’s people. (She was) a real people person and a good person to know and to work with,” said Clark.
Attributes that people like city councilman Nathanial Bates also use to describe Emma herself.
“She is such a great leader and a great follower,” Bates said. “She has enormous energy. I don’t know where it comes from.”
Clark also volunteers at San Quentin to help inmates rebuild their lives.
And she helps people who are dying get their affairs in order before they pass away.
The City of Richmond recently honored Clark by declaring March 28th Emma Jean Clark Day.
So for putting her heart, soul and faith into the city and citizens of Richmond, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Emma Jean Clark.