Longtime councilman recalled as trailblazer


Roland Hayes Clark


Staff Writer

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A longtime Tarboro councilman will be remembered for his strong advocacy work in the community.

The funeral for Roland Hayes Clark, who died at age of 87, was held on Sunday. Clark served on the Tarboro Town Council for 25 years, which included eight years as mayor pro tem alongside his friend, the late Dr. Moses Ray, who served as Tarboro mayor.

Clark’s involvement in politics encompassed more than 70 years while he served in several civic, community and fraternal organizations and professional boards that resulted in him receiving several awards and commendations. Clark was inducted into the Twin County Hall of Fame in 2014.

The Rev. Dr. Thomas L. Walker said Clark became a leader in his community when racial tensions were high. During the 1960s, Clark’s civil rights activism included marching with civil rights icon the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Clark received Edgecombe County’s Martin Luther King Jr. Citizenship Award in 2001.

“He was called upon to function during post-slavery times,” Walker said. “It was some difficult days that he had to stand for the people and he stood well. He fought some strong battles because he could speak truth to power because he knew where the power was in Tarboro. He knew Tarboro politics and he fought to tear down barriers. Roland was a fighter and he did it in such a strategic way. I hope that his legacy will live forever.”

Walker added Clark was a trailblazer, hard worker and advisor to him and many people that had the urge to go into local government.

“I learned a lot from Roland and he was truly a pioneer,” Walker said. “When myself and a few other people entered into the political arena in 1982, Roland was there to help coach us. He would aggressively talk with us and council us to make sure that we learned the ropes. He was very direct and sincere because he understood the connections between politics and the well-being of our people. We went to him for advice, and he was always ready to give it.”

Clark’s strong influence also was vital to help make political history in the Twin Counties. In 1990, with him as her campaign manager, Carol Allen White became the first woman and first African-American elected in Edgecombe County as the Clerk of Superior Court, Ex Officio Judge of Probate. 

White said she met Clark in the early 1980s, while he was a self-employed certified public accountant. She said Clark offered her an opportunity to work with him as his administrative assistant from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.

White said her time around Clark influenced her to want get into politics and make a difference in the community. White said she ran a hard-fought race to win the position of Superior Court Ex Officio Judge of Probate for Edgecombe County. However, White acknowledged her historical achievement wouldn’t have happened without the knowledge of Clark, who she called her mentor, father figure and friend.

“I learned from Roland that being a public servant and staying involved with politics is a way of making a difference in society,” White said. “Roland will be sorely missed, and my life has been truly blessed because God allowed our paths to cross. My sympathy is with his family and our community that he loved so dearly.”