James Lester Clark cooked the best ribs and told the best fibs of anyone I’ve ever known. He took the details with him when he died on Oct. 30, but the ribs started in his wood smoker, continued in his oven and finished over charcoal. His tall tales of staged crucifixions at Greensboro Primitive Baptist Church beside his house on Carr Street (“You should volunteer to be nailed up,” he told new students; “it’s a good experience for a writer.”) and crazed hobos in the University of North Carolina Greensboro steam tunnels (“don’t go near that big grate outside the library after dark”) were just as elaborate but more spontaneous. It’s hard to say which were more delicious.
Photo by Christopher Donald of Jim & Daniele Clark with their granddaughter Charlie
I met Jim while earning my MFA from UNCG’s creative writing department, where he was the director from the 1980s until his retirement last July. We didn’t interact much during those two years. I was told he didn’t like talking about his then-recent past as 1970s hippie priest turned radical journalist (he had a Divinity degree from Duke and founded the underground Greensboro Sun).