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Clark Connections

Clark Memorial's community connections extend beyond those associated with faith. Scroll to learn more about the church's history as it relates to education, medicine, music, and civil rights.


Clark & Meharry Medical College

Meharry Medical College had its beginnings as a department of Central Tennessee College and would go on to become the first medical college for African American students in the South. Later, Meharry added a School of Dentistry.


Central Tennessee College originated as part of the Clark Chapel community school, which held its first session on September 16, 1867. Eighty students - children and adult - were in attendance. The chapel school was later chartered as Central Tennessee College; it was renamed Walden University in 1900.

Meharry has maintained its close connections with Clark Memorial. Many notable alumni and faculty members have been Clark members over the years, including Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr., Dr. George W. Hubbard, Dr. Charles J. Walker, Dr. Harold Jordan, Dr. Fred Fielder, Dr. Henry A. Moses, and Dr. E. Perry Crump.

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Photo of Meharry School of Dentistry from Clark Memorial Archive.

Clark & Tennessee State University

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Tennessee State University opened its doors to students in 1912 under the name Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State Normal School. One of Nashville's Historically Black Colleges and Universities, TSU has provided both educational and professional opportunities for many Clarkites. Notable alumni with Clark connections include: Dr. Tommie Morton-Young, Dr. Calvin O. Atchison, Sr., Dr. Hazo Carter, Sr. and Elizabeth Forbes Carter, Dr. Eddie T. Goins, Lina McCord, Samuel Whitmon, Leonard Morton, and Jordan D. "Chick" Chavis.

In addition to their contributions to TSU, several longtime Clark members are remembered on campus through buildings and streets named in their honor. These include Lois H. Daniel (Martha M. Brown-Lois H. Daniel Library), Dr. Thomas E. Poag (Thomas Edward Poag Auditorium), Alger V. Boswell (Boswell Science Complex), Coach Ed Temple (Edward S. Temple Track), and Coach "Big" John Merritt (Merritt Avenue).

The Clark Clarion, October 28, 1977.

Clark & Fisk University

Fisk University and Clark Memorial were founded at almost the same time; both would become important institutions for Nashville's Black community in the following decades. Once Clark relocated to its present address at Phillips Street and 14th Ave. North, Fisk and Clark also shared a neighborhood.

Many Fisk professors, administrators, and students have attended Clark, including groundbreaking librarian, author, and educator Dr. Jessie Carney Smith, Fisk athletic director H.B. "Bus" Thompson, Rev. Dr. Karen Y. Collier (chair of Fisk's Department of Religious and Philosophical Studies), Pearl Allen Bryant (musician, teacher, and Senior Probation Officer for Davidson County Juvenile Court), and current Tennessee State Representative Justin Jones.

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Article from Nashville Woman, February 2000. Clark Memorial Archive.

Clark & American Baptist College

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American Baptist College formally opened in 1924. The school not only prepared future ministers for Christian leadership, it also became a vital training ground for civil rights champions.


Students such as Rev. C.T. Vivian, Congressman John Lewis, Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Dr. Julius Scruggs, and many others became leading lights in the Nashville and national civil rights movements. Their activism would bring them to gatherings at Clark Memorial, which has continue its support of ABC over the years.

Clipping from Clark Memorial's The Connection, April 2018.


Clark Memorial has been the faith home for many involved in the medical field, thanks in part to the church's role in the development of Meharry Medical College. The church is situated close to the Meharry and Fisk University campuses. It is also down the street from the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Medical Center, named for Clarkite and groundbreaking surgeon Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr.


Practicing physicians and nurses, medical educators and instructors, university and hospital administrators, clinicians and students have found a welcoming faith home at Clark. The church has also helped bridge the gap between the need for medical services and information and access to those resources, hosting free clinics, education programs, and fundraisers in the name of healthier communities.

Visit our archive to learn about Clark's Meharry Medical College connection, research the church's community outreach activities, and explore the impacts on modern medicine made by some of Clark's notable members.

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Photo of Mrs. Evelyn Quivers, Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr., and Dr. Thomas E. Poag, May 15, 1966. Clark Memorial Archive.

The Clark Clarion, January 18, 1980.

Photograph of health clinic at Clark from the Clark Memorial Archive.


Music has played a powerful role in worship and fellowship at Clark Memorial since the church's earliest days. Whether it comes from passionate voices raised in song or instruments woven into melodic tapestries, music draws people together for memorable shared experiences.

Clark is proud of our musical heritage and grateful for those (accomplished professionals and enthusiastic amateurs alike) who have shared their gifts with our community over the years. Many Clarkites helped to craft the church's enduring musical legacy while also contributing to Nashville's music scene through performances, compositions, and furthering music education and appreciation at the city's public schools and HBCUs.

Visit Clark's archive to listen to recordings by our various music ministries (play samples below from Clark's Sanctuary and Handbell Choirs), watch videos of worship services and special musical programs, and learn more about some of the talented individuals who have helped shape the sounds of Clark.

In Bright Mansions Above
Joyful, Joyful
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Photographs and Clark Clarion clippings available in the Clark Memorial Archive.

Civil Rights

Clark Memorial has been involved in helping and uplifting Nashville’s Black community for generations, with evidence of many of its activities over the years now housed in its archive. The church and its members played crucial roles in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, providing space for public meetings on school desegregation and social justice.

In August 1958, Clark's Women's Society of Christian Service hosted a forum on desegregating Nashville's public schools. White segregationists attempted to disrupt the meeting with bomb threats, but the crowd refused to be intimidated.


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The Nashville Banner, August 25, 1958, p.1.

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In September 1961 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Lawson, James Farmer, and other civil rights leaders conducted a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at Clark ahead of an address by Dr. King at the War Memorial Building.

Visit Clark Memorial to learn more about the church's connections to Nashville's civil rights movement. You can also find additional information through the links below.

Also in 1958, Rev. James Lawson conducted nonviolence training classes in the educational wing. These were attended by local college students, many of whom became leading lights of the movement including John Lewis, Diane Nash, Bernard Lafayette, Marion Barry, and Matthew Walker, Jr. (a Freedom Rider and longtime Clark member). The tactics learned at Clark were employed during demonstrations in Nashville, most notably a series of lunch counter sit-ins that helped desegregate downtown department store eateries.

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Facebook post on Clark by Metro Nashville Historical Commission.

Links to Related Archival Collections:

James M. Lawson Papers - Vanderbilt University

SCLC Pamphlet courtesy of the Civil Rights Movement Archive.

Civil Rights Room - Nashville Public Library

Sit-Ins in Nashville - The Library of Congress

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