JOHN CLARK was born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, on February 28, 1766. He received little formal education but had a long and distinguished military career, serving in the American Revolution as a 15-year-old lieutenant, fighting alongside his father Elijah Clarke. One year later, he was promoted to captain and earned the reputation as a fierce Indian fighter. He rose to the rank of brigadier general in 1792, and was commissioned a major general by 1796. He was sheriff of Wilkes County from 1789 to 1792. Clark became the owner of vast tracts of land throughout the state through the controversial Yazoo Act. He entered politics in 1801 as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, a position he held until 1803. He was a commissioner to lay out the new capitol of Milledgeville in 1803. One year later, he was elected to the Georgia Senate. Clark also was the leader of the back-country leadership faction that was against the faction led by George M. Troup. He ran unsuccessfully for the governor’s office in 1813 and 1817; however, he was victorious in the 1819 and 1821 elections, becoming Georgia’s 15th governor. He was a Presidential elector in 1816. During his tenure, he sponsored a revision to the state constitution that granted the popular election of governors. In 1824 the revision was sanctioned. A treaty was negotiated with the Creek Indians in 1821 that allowed the state to create five new counties on the land between the Ocmulgee and Flint Rivers. Clark advocated for additional appropriations to be spent on educational programs and internal developments. After leaving office, he ran unsuccessfully for the governorship in 1825 losing to George Troup by fewer than 700 votes in the state’s first popular election. Clark and his family moved to Florida in 1827, and was chosen by President Andrew Jackson as keeper of the public forests. Clark was known for his temper, loyalty, and military reputation. Governor John Clark died on October 2, 1832, of yellow fever. He was buried at the family graveyard in St. Andrews, Florida, and he and his wife of forty years were reinterred at the National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia, on April 6, 1923.
Cook, James F. Governors of Georgia, 1754-2004. 3d ed. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.