Mark Clark
Born(1947-06-28)June 28, 1947
DiedDecember 4, 1969(1969-12-04) (aged 22)
Cause of deathAssassination (gunshot wounds) by Chicago police[1][2][3]
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materManual High School
Illinois Central College
Years active1966–1969
Political partyBlack Panther

Mark Clark (June 28, 1947 – December 4, 1969) was an American activist and member of the Black Panther Party (BPP). He was killed on December 4, 1969, with Fred Hampton, state chairman of the Black Panthers, during a Chicago police predawn raid.

In January 1970, a coroner's jury held an inquest and ruled the deaths of Clark and Hampton to be justifiable homicide.[4] Survivors and the relatives of Clark and Hampton filed a wrongful death lawsuit [5] against the City of Chicago, Cook County, and the federal government (specifically FBI). It was settled in November 1982, with each entity paying $616,333 to a group of nine plaintiffs.[6]


Clark was born on June 28, 1947, in Peoria, Illinois, to Elder William Clark and Fannie (Bardley) Clark.[7] He became active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) at an early age and joined in demonstrating against discrimination in employment, housing, and education.[8] According to John Gwynn, former president of state and local chapters of the NAACP, Clark and his brothers played a role in helping keep other teenagers in line. "He could call for order when older persons or adults could not", Gwynn said of Clark in a December 1969 interview with the Chicago Tribune.[9] In that same Chicago Tribune article, family members are quoted as saying Clark enjoyed reading and art, and was good at drawing portraits. He attended Manual High School and Illinois Central College in East Peoria .[9]

Black Panther Party

After reading their literature and the Ten Point Program, Clark joined the Black Panther Party and later decided to organize a local Peoria chapter.[10] He went from church to church in an effort to find a building to house a free breakfast program. He was eventually successful when Pastor Blaine Ramsey agreed to allow a free breakfast program. Church members later voted against continuing the breakfast program because of concerns of government monitoring of the Black Panther Party. It was later revealed that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was at that time running a massive and largely illegal disruption and neutralization campaign against the Panthers as an organization and against individual members, sympathizers and supporters of the BPP as part of the FBI's Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), in close collaboration with state and local police throughout the USA.[11]


Some family members and friends say Mark Clark knew he would be murdered in Chicago.[9] In the predawn hours of December 4, 1969, Chicago Police stormed into the apartment of BPP State Chairman Fred Hampton at 2337 West Monroe Street, killing both Mark Clark (age 22[12]) and Fred Hampton (age 21[12]), and causing serious bodily harm to Verlina Brewer, Ronald "Doc" Satchel, Blair Anderson, and Brenda Harris.

Hampton and Deborah Johnson, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with their child, were sleeping in the south bedroom. Satchel, Anderson, and Brewer were asleep in the north bedroom. Harris and Louis Truelock were sleeping on a bed by the south wall of the living room, and Harold Bell slept on a mattress on the floor in the middle of the room. Clark, sitting in the front room of the apartment with a shotgun in his lap, was on security duty.[13]

The first shot hit Clark in the heart. He died instantly, and his gun went off as he fell, according to Harris, who watched from the bed in the corner.[13]

The single round was later determined to be caused by a reflexive death convulsion after the raiding team shot him. This was the only shot the Panthers fired.[14][15] A federal grand jury determined that the police fired between 82 and 99 shots, including into bedrooms, while most of the occupants lay sleeping.[13]


Shortly afterwards, Cook County Coroner Andrew Toman began forming a special six-member coroner's jury to hold an inquest into the deaths of Clark and Hampton.[16] On December 23, Toman announced four additions to the jury which included two African-American men: physician Theodore K. Lawless and attorney Julian B. Wilkins, the son of J. Ernest Wilkins Sr.[16] He stated the four were selected from a group of candidates submitted to his office by groups and individuals representing both Chicago's black and white communities.[16] Civil rights leaders and spokesmen for the black community were reported to have been disappointed with the selection.[17] An official with the Chicago Urban League said: "I would have had more confidence in the jury if one of them had been a black man who has a rapport with the young and the grass roots in the community."[17] Gus Savage said that such a man to whom the community could relate need not be black.[17] The jury eventually included a third black man who was a member of the first coroner's jury sworn in on December 4.[4]

The blue-ribbon panel convened for the inquest on January 6, 1970, and on January 21 ruled the deaths of Clark and Hampton to be justifiable homicide.[4] The jury qualified their verdict on the death of Hampton as "based solely and exclusively on the evidence presented to this inquisition";[4] police and expert witness provided the only testimony during the inquest.[18] Jury foreman James T. Hicks stated that they could not consider the charges of the Black Panthers in the apartment who stated that the police entered the apartment shooting; those who survived the raid were reported to have refused to testify during the inquest because they faced criminal charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault during the raid.[18] Attorneys for the Clark and Hampton families did not introduce any witnesses during the proceedings, but described the inquest as "a well-rehearsed theatrical performance designed to vindicate the police officers".[4] State's Attorney Edward Hanrahan said the verdict was recognition "of the truthfulness of our police officers' account of the events".[4]

Civil rights lawsuit

In 1970, a $47.7 million lawsuit was filed on behalf of the survivors and the relatives of Clark and Hampton stating that the civil rights of the Black Panther members were violated.[6] Twenty-eight defendants were named, including Hanrahan as well as the City of Chicago, Cook County, and federal governments.[6] The following trial lasted 18 months and was reported to have been the longest federal trial up to that time.[6] After its conclusion in 1977, Judge Joseph Sam Perry of United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the suit against 21 of the defendants prior to jury deliberations.[6] Perry dismissed the suit against the remaining defendants after jurors deadlocked.[6] In 1979, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago stated that the government had withheld relevant documents thereby obstructing the judicial process.[6] Reinstating the case against 24 of the defendants, the Court of Appeals ordered a new trial.[6] The Supreme Court of the United States heard an appeal but voted 5–3 in 1980 to return the case to the District Court for a new trial.[6]

In 1982, the City of Chicago, Cook County, and the federal government agreed to a settlement in which each would pay $616,333 to a group of nine plaintiffs, including the mothers of Clark and Hampton.[6] The $1.85 million settlement was believed to be the largest ever in a civil rights case.[6]


Ten days after the murders of Hampton and Clark, Bobby Rush, then the "minister of defense" for the Illinois Black Panther party, called the raiding party an "execution squad".[19] Despite the settlements, controversy remained as to whether the men died in an exchange of gunfire with police or were intentionally slain.[20]

Weather Underground reaction

In response to the killing of Black Panther members Fred Hampton and Mark Clark during the December 1969 police raid, on May 21, 1970, the Weather Underground issued a "Declaration of War" against the United States government, using for the first time its new name, the "Weather Underground Organization" (WUO), adopting fake identities, and pursuing covert activities only. These initially included preparations for a bombing of a U.S. military non-commissioned officers' dance at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in what Brian Flanagan said had been intended to be "the most horrific hit the United States government had ever suffered on its territory".[21]

We've known that our job is to lead white kids into armed revolution. We never intended to spend the next five to twenty-five years of our lives in jail. Ever since SDS became revolutionary, we've been trying to show how it is possible to overcome frustration and impotence that comes from trying to reform this system. Kids know the lines are drawn: revolution is touching all of our lives. Tens of thousands have learned that protest and marches don't do it. Revolutionary violence is the only way.

Although two months earlier, Hampton had criticized the predominantly white Weather Underground (also known as the Weathermen) for being "adventuristic, masochistic and Custeristic",[23] Bernardine Dohrn of the Weathermen, which had a close relationship with the Black Panthers in Chicago at the time of Hampton's death, said in the documentary The Weather Underground (2002) that the killing of Fred Hampton caused them to "be more grave, more serious, more determined to raise the stakes, and not just be the white people who wrung their hands when black people were being murdered."[24]


  1. ^ Stubblefield, Anna (May 31, 2018). Ethics Along the Color Line. Cornell University Press. pp. 60–61. ISBN 9781501717703. Archived from the original on January 9, 2021. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  2. ^ Burrough, Bryan (2016). Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence. Penguin Publishing Group. pp. 84–85. ISBN 9780143107972. Archived from the original on January 9, 2021. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  3. ^ Lee, William (December 3, 2019). "In 1969, Charismatic Black Panthers Leader Fred Hampton Was Killed in a Hail of Gunfire. 50 Years Later, the Fight Against Police Brutality Continues". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on January 9, 2021. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Dolan, Thomas J. (January 22, 1970). "Panther Inquest Backs Police" (PDF). Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago. p. 3. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  5. ^ Morris, Rose (2019). Chronicle of the Seventh Son Black Panther Mark Clark. United States: Rose Morris. pp. 5–11. ISBN 1733581715.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Franklin, Tim; Crawford Jr., William B (November 2, 1982). "County OKs Panther Death Settlements". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
  7. ^ Morris, Rose (2019). Chronicle of the Seventh Son Black Panther Mark Clark. United States: Rose Morris. pp. 15–23. ISBN 1733581715.
  8. ^ Clark, Kay. "Who Was Mark Clark?". Mark Clark Legacy website. Mark Clark Legacy Org. Archived from the original on 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2005-11-16.
  9. ^ a b c Boyce, Joseph (December 29, 1969). "Panther Clark Expected Death, Sister Reveals". Chicago Tribune. p. 12. Retrieved 2005-11-01 – via ProQuest.
  10. ^ Morris, Rose (2019). Chronicle of the Seventh Son Black Panther Mark Clark. United States: Rose Morris. pp. 157–180. ISBN 1733581715.
  11. ^ "FBI Records - The Vault - Vault Home - COINTELPRO". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation. n.d. Archived from the original on 2021-12-06. Retrieved 9 December 2021. The FBI began COINTELPRO—short for Counterintelligence Program—in 1956 to disrupt the activities of the Communist Party of the United States. In the 1960s, it was expanded to include a number of other domestic groups, such as the [...] Black Panther Party. All COINTELPRO operations were ended in 1971.
  12. ^ a b "The Black Panther Raid and the death of Fred Hampton". Chicago Tribune. December 4, 1969.
  13. ^ a b c "Hampton v. City Of Chicago, et al". IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS. January 4, 1978. Retrieved 2007-07-19.
  14. ^ Dan Berger (2009). The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther. Chicago Review Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-55652-765-4.
  15. ^ Berger, Dan (2006) Outlaws of America: the Weather Underground and the politics of solidarity, AK Press, ISBN 978-1-904859-41-3, pp.132-133
  16. ^ a b c O'Brien, John (December 24, 1969). "For More Selected for Jury to Probe Panther Raid Deaths". Chicago Tribune. section 1, p. 4. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  17. ^ a b c Siddon, Arthur (December 24, 1969). "Panther Inquest Jury Selections Questioned". Chicago Tribune. Chicago. section 1, p. 4. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  18. ^ a b "Illinois jury rules Black Panther deaths 'justifiable homicide'". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. UPI. January 22, 1970. p. 12. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  19. ^ Koziol, Ronald (December 14, 1969). "Panther Slayings Split the City Into 'Name Calling' Factions". Chicago Tribune. section 1, p. 7. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
  20. ^ Davis, Robert (November 16, 1990). "Some have 2nd thoughts on making Panther's day". Chicago Tribune. Chicago. section 2, pp. 1,6. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  21. ^ Democracy Now! |Ex-Weather Underground Member Kathy Boudin Granted Parole Archived 2007-11-14 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Weather Underground Declaration of a State of War
  23. ^ "The Seeds of Terror". The New York Times. November 22, 1981. p. 4.
  24. ^ Bernardine Dohrn (2002). The Weather Underground (mp4). Event occurs at 0:34:00. Retrieved March 2, 2012.[dead YouTube link]