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Harvey Clark, former TV newsman, city representative, and PGW executive, dies at 76

He also served on boards at the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, the International Visitors Center, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Civic Center.

Opinionated, brutally honest, and eager to be active, Harvey Clark ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1994.
Opinionated, brutally honest, and eager to be active, Harvey Clark ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1994.Read moreAndrea Mihalik

Harvey Clark, 76, a versatile, award-winning Philadelphia TV reporter in the 1980s, a city representative under Mayor Ed Rendell in the 1990s, and vice president of communications for Philadelphia Gas Works in the 2000s, died Saturday, Oct. 16, of liver cancer at the Veterans Administration Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

As a newsman at WCAU-TV Channel 10 from 1978-91, Mr. Clark won several awards for his exhaustive and informative coverage of the 1985 MOVE standoff that resulted in Philadelphia police dropping a bomb on a fortified house. The explosion triggered a raging fire that killed 11 people and destroyed 61 homes in West Philadelphia.

Using interviews, firsthand reporting, camera work, and reporting by colleague Pete Kane and others — and with police bullets whistling around him — Mr. Clark spent 24 straight hours detailing the horrific event to captivated CBS viewers. He was later honored for that work by the National Association of Black Journalists, and Channel 10 won an Alfred I. Dupont-Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcast journalism.

Mr. Clark also won two local Emmys in 1987 as managing editor and host of Channel 10: the People, a public affairs show that produced groundbreaking documentaries. He won acclaim for his coverage of the drug trade in North Philadelphia, the plight of homeless women in Philadelphia, and other important local stories.

He is prominently featured online by the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia.

“He knew the backstory of every politician, every church, every union,” said Doug Oliver, the current vice president of governmental and external affairs at Peco, and a former protégé of Mr. Clark at PGW.

Mr. Clark was fired at WCAU in 1991, halfway through a four-year contract, after clashing with management about the nature of his coverage. He spent 1992 to 94 with Rendell as the city representative, ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Congress in 1994, and worked in 1997 as special assistant for broadcast media to New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman.

From 1998 to 2004, he worked as a spokesman and later vice president of communications at PGW.

Born in Chicago on Feb. 18, 1945, Mr. Clark and his family were victims of the Cicero, Ill., race riot. On July 11 and 12, 1951, a mob of 4,000 white rioters attacked the apartment building in the Chicago suburb to which Mr. Clark, his older sister Michele and their parents, Harvey Clark Jr. and Johnetta Clark, had recently moved. More than $20,000 of damage was done to the building, and all of the Clarks’ possessions were destroyed. Mr. Clark was 6.

Homeless for a year, recalling that time, Mr. Clark told the Daily News in 1986, “It makes an impression on you that’s so strong, it brands a part of your insides.”

After graduating from Tilden High School in Chicago, Mr. Clark spent four years in the Navy, and then graduated from Vassar College with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

In 1972, Mr. Clark’s sister Michele, the first Black female news correspondent at CBS, was killed in a plane crash in Chicago. After speaking at her memorial service, he was approached by Richard Salant, then president of CBS News, and encouraged to pursue his own broadcasting career.

“He said, ‘Listen, I think you have an interesting speaking voice,’ ” Mr. Clark said in a 2016 online interview for Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. “ ‘If you ever think about this business, call me.’ ”

So, between his junior and senior years at Vassar, Mr. Clark enlisted Salant to sponsor him in a minority journalism training program at Columbia. Later, the program was renamed the Michele Clark Fellowship Program.

After graduating from Vassar and the Columbia program, Mr. Clark was hired by Salant and assigned to WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. He left after two years and moved to Philadelphia and Channel 10 in 1978.

Opinionated and outspoken, Mr. Clark was not reluctant to challenge authority and call for change. “He was a wordsmith, and good at putting his thoughts to words,” said Trudi Brown Williams, his executive producer at Channel 10.

Away from work, Mr. Clark liked to read James Michener, tell stories, play golf, and yell at the TV news when he got agitated. He met his wife, Anna Marie, in 1988 at a party, and they married in 2004. He had a son, Derek, from a previous relationship.

“There was nothing false about him,” said his wife. “He was true to himself and others. He commanded any room he entered.”

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Clark is survived by three grandchildren and other relatives.

A celebration of his life is to be held later.

Donations in his name may be made to the Michele Clark Academic Prep Magnet High School, 5101 West Harrison St., Chicago, Ill. 60644.