Joe Louis Clark, the baseball bat-clutching high school principal whose get-tough methods inspired the 1989 film “Lean on Me,” died at his Florida home Tuesday after a long-term illness, The Associated Press reported. He was 82.

Clark, with his ever-present bat and bullhorn, famously expelled hundreds of unruly students at Paterson, New Jersey’s Eastside High School in one day. Though a polarizing figure, his backers included President Ronald Reagan, who offered him a White House position after transforming Eastside, AP reported.

After retiring as principal in 1989, Clark worked at a juvenile detention center in Newark and authored “Laying Down the Law: Joe Clark’s Strategy for Saving Our Schools,” which laid out his methods for turning around Eastside, AP reported.

Morgan Freeman portrayed Clark in 1989’s “Lean on Me,” the loosely biographical film based on the principal’s time at the inner-city school.

Clark is survived by his children Joetta, Hazel and JJ, and grandchildren Talitha, Jorell and Hazel.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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