For retired extension agent Bernard H. Clark, participation in 4-H has been a life-long affair. Clark began his affiliation with 4-H in 1935 in the seventh grade when he joined his school’s 4-H club. Clark has remained involved with 4-H throughout his life.
Clark believes that his service in the military during the Second World War helped him discover how much he enjoyed both agriculture and working with people. Upon returning to college after the war, Clark began working toward a career in the Cooperative Extension Service, which seemed like a natural marrying of both his interests.
Following graduation in 1947, Clark began work as a county extension agent for Gadsden County. The West Florida Livestock Show and Sale was only three years old and he became a key figure in its continuation and success. Clark also established the swine show component within that event.
At the time in Gadsden County, 4-H was segregated so there was a “whites only” livestock show and an “African-American Only” livestock show. “When it came time to integrate, Bernard was instrumental in making a smooth transition from two shows into one,” said Henry Grant, county extension director with the Gadsden County Extension Service. His work laid a foundation for the show’s 55-plus years of continual success, says Grant.
“The West Florida Livestock Show and Sale is the most racially diverse show in the state of Florida,” said Grant. “Bernard’s love for 4-H continues today as he meets to help plan for the show each year.” Clark also organized the Gadsden County 4-H Livestock Club, which remains one of the more popular clubs in the county, even after his retirement.
Clark’s interests were not just in livestock. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Gadsden County 4-H members, under Clark’s direction, planted thousands of pine trees. Management of the Pine Tree Project proved profitable for the 4-H members educationally and provided a valuable donation to the University of Florida that supported their project.
The trees were harvested annually and each club received a portion of the profits. A herd of cattle was also purchased for the University of Florida’s Agricultural Experiment Station in Quincy, nearby. The herd provided a valuable teaching aid for 4-H members and farmers.
The 4-H programs established and nurtured by Clark in Gadsden County continue to serve as a foundation for many of the programs used in 4-H today. He worked with school 4-H clubs to raise poultry for end-of-the-year cookouts. He did projects with the 4-H Electric Club and several 4-H members were recognized with state-level honors for their efforts. He also planned several activities year-round for 4-H members and their families to enjoy, in a county that was mostly rural and did not have a lot of services or activities available for young people.
When asked about his career with 4-H, Clark had nothing but positive things to say. “I enjoyed my career very much. I’ve always enjoyed working with young people. I really haven’t quit yet,” said Clark. “It’s just enjoyable work. I’ve had several kids that I taught go on to be Ag leaders and they always come back and tell me that I was a help to them and that has kept me going.”
He retired from extension work in 1979, but Clark remained connected with 4-H for decades. Clark says he enjoys running into his old 4-Hers and enjoys seeing how they have progressed in their lives. “One of the best things from my career is seeing my 4-H’ers grown up,” said Clark. “Since I retired, these 4-H’ers will stop by and see me working out in the yard and they come over and tell me what 4-H meant to them as a kid and it’s kind of opened my eyes.”
Sometimes, the impact he had on a young 4-H member, was not apparent until much later in life. “One boy told me he was abused by his mother his whole life and that he used me as a role model of how a man should behave,” said Clark. “I’ve always thought 4-H was the greatest program for young people and I still think so.”
“His military service during World War II no doubt laid the framework for the occupation he chose,” said Grant. “He loves agriculture and people. He has had a career of service and spent many years serving as an agent in charge of catalyzing, planning, and action on public concerns, and assisting groups in establishing programs and policies to meet their common goals.”
In addition to his work with Extension and 4-H, Clark is a charter member of the Greensboro Kiwanis Club where he served in local and state leadership positions. He also served as an advisor to the Boy Scouts of America, taught an adult Sunday School class for ten years, and served as chairman of the Trustees Board of Greensboro United Methodist church. He also served for a number of years as a member of the local volunteer fire department.