Decades before he became a central figure in Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, Jeffrey Bossert Clark was a bespectacled teenager who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and graduated from Father Judge High School with a string of academic and extracurricular achievements.

Those who’ve known him throughout his professional life have described him as a quiet and unassuming workhorse. Several of his former classmates at the Catholic school in Holmesburg say he was so unobtrusive they don’t recall him at all.

But on Thursday, Clark will find himself in a national spotlight as the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack focuses on his role in an averted plot to use the Justice Department to reverse the election results and hand Trump a second term.

Senior Justice Department officials have testified that Trump came close to appointing Clark — then acting head of the department’s Civil Division — as acting attorney general after he proposed using DOJ’s powers to pressure state lawmakers in Georgia to contest the state’s election outcome. The plan ultimately fizzled when several DOJ leaders threatened to resign.

On Wednesday, federal agents descended upon Clark’s suburban Virginia home in connection with the Justice Department’s ongoing inquiry into efforts to overturn the election, The New York Times reported.

Clark did not respond to The Inquirer’s requests for comment this week. But his role in the events now under scrutiny caught those who knew him in his Philadelphia days — like former Father Judge classmate Walter Jahn — by surprise.

Jahn, now a biology professor at the State University of New York-Orange, said he remembered Clark as a serious and thoughtful student eager to impress by racking up academic titles and prestige, but one who wasn’t afraid to take a moral stand. When one of their fellow students obtained answers to a test in advance, Jahn recalled, Clark turned him in for cheating.

“It was a difficult decision to make and made him a bit unpopular with the others in our class,” Jahn said. “But I obviously follow the news … and I’m concerned about the stand he didn’t take.”

Clark is expected to be a focus of the Jan. 6 committee’s fifth public hearing on Thursday afternoon. Here’s what you need to know about him, his Philadelphia roots, and his role in what the committee has described as an “attempted coup” by Trump and his supporters:

Jeffrey Clark’s Philly roots

Clark, 55, was born in Tacony, the youngest of four siblings. He spent his early years in a family home on Marsden Street, at the time a primarily white, working-class neighborhood near the foot of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge. He attended St. Leo’s elementary school and Father Judge, where he graduated at the top of his class.

Family members still living in Pennsylvania did not respond to requests to discuss his early life.

His senior yearbook lists a string of extracurricular activities including participation in Mathletes, the National Honor Society, the newspaper and yearbook, and clubs focused on chess, German, Latin, and computer science.

» READ MORE: Trump lawyers contacted a top Pa. Republican every day during 2020 pressure campaign, Jan. 6 committee says

But his failure to snag one distinction stuck in his craw for years, said Jahn, his former high school classmate. Their senior yearbook lists Jahn as the top-ranked student in their graduating class, a distinction that was accurate at the time of the yearbook’s printing but that Clark had rightfully earned once the final grades of the term had come in.

“It really bothered him ... ,” Jahn recalled. “He would say things like ‘Oh, I should have been listed first’” in the yearbook. Clark was apparently still bothered by the mistake decades later and brought it up again when they saw each other at their 20th high school reunion, Jahn said.

Clark left Philadelphia shortly after his high school graduation in 1985 and attended Harvard, where he earned degrees in economics and history. He later received advanced degrees from the University of Delaware and Georgetown Law. His career has been primarily based in Washington ever since.

He spent years practicing environmental law both in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush and at the Washington law firm Kirkland & Ellis, whose alumni include other noted conservative legal figures like Barr, Brett Kavanaugh, Kenneth Starr, and Robert Bork.

He was reappointed to the DOJ in the early days of the Trump administration.

What Clark did after the 2020 election

As Trump and his allies were scrambling for a way to undo Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, Clark emerged as the most open among top Justice Department officials to the president’s election lies.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr had resigned on Dec. 23, after concluding there was no evidence of widespread fraud. And his acting replacement, Jeffrey Rosen, stood by those findings.

But Trump became increasingly annoyed by what he viewed as the department’s failure to find evidence to substantiate his conspiracy theories. U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.) suggested the president consider Clark.

Perry, who represents the Harrisburg region and was one of the earliest proponents of Trump’s false claims about the election, told WITF last year that he’d met Clark working on “various legislative matters” over the years. When Clark asked for an introduction to the president in late December, Perry obliged. Last year, Perry told the Senate Judiciary Committee he described Clark to Trump as someone “who could really get in there and do something about this.”

That introduction led to an initial Oval Office meeting in late December of 2020. Within days, Clark began circulating a draft letter on DOJ letterhead addressed to state officials in Georgia. It said the department had identified “significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states.” And it urged the Georgia legislature to convene a special session to consider selecting an alternate slate of pro-Trump electors in time for the Jan. 6, 2021, congressional certification of the Electoral College vote.

» READ MORE: Bill Barr on ‘rubbish’ Philly fraud claims, Al Schmidt recalls threats: More Pa. highlights at Jan. 6 hearings

Speaking later to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rosen’s deputy Richard Donoghue described the letter as “wildly inappropriate and irresponsible … nothing less than the department meddling in the outcome of a presidential election.”

But days later, Clark had met with Trump again and floated a plan to oust Rosen and appoint him attorney general instead — an idea Clark later told his superiors the president accepted, according to testimony quoted in court filings.

That prompted Rosen to demand his own meeting with Trump. And on Jan. 3, he and Donoghue found themselves in the Oval Office, looking on appalled as Clark made his pitch to take over the department and pursue a more aggressive posture, according to a transcript of Donoghue’s testimony before the Jan. 6 committee.

Rosen and Donoghue threatened to resign and vowed others in the department would follow.

“You’re an environmental lawyer,” Donoghue told Clark during the meeting, according to the transcript. “How about you go back to your office, and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.”

Ultimately, the threat of mass resignations swayed Trump. According to accounts shared in court filings and Senate testimony, Trump told Clark he wasn’t going to take him up on his offer, but praised his willingness to fight.

What happened next

Clark resigned from the department after the New York Times first reported details of his actions following the election. He was briefly named chief of litigation at the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a conservative think tank largely funded by the Koch Foundation. But his name was scrubbed from the organization’s website after it received a subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee.

Clark’s interaction with the Jan. 6 committee

Clark refused last year to comply with a committee subpoena and was referred to the Justice Department for possible contempt of Congress charges.

But Clark eventually did meet with members of the committee this February — only to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination more than 100 times, according to a CNN report.

Clark is not among the witnesses scheduled to provide live testimony at the hearing. Committee staffers said Wednesday that they plan to play excerpts of his interview, as they’ve done with several other Trump administration officials.

The hearing, scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., is expected to feature testimony from Rosen and Donoghue.