MAYOR EVERETTE CLARK: NEARLY FOUR DECADES OF SERVICE TO MARION
Everette Clark came to Marion in the early 1960s from South Carolina as manager of B.C. Moore and Sons clothing store. He soon bought his own store and was a merchant on main street for over twenty years. In 1972 he was elected to a seat on Marion City Council where he served until becoming Mayor in 1985. The citizens of Marion kept Mr. Clark in that position for two dozen years, but he announced that he would not run for re-election in
2009. Instead he sought and won a return to City Council. Everette Clark sat down with us to discuss his time running a downtown business as well as his tenure as Mayor. He talks about some of the challenges that the city has faced and how it has responded, and continues to respond, to them.
And here’s a tidbit that might make you believe in destiny if you don’t already: The first apartment where Mr. Clark and his wife lived in Marion was located on North Main Street. The building was later torn down to make way for…the new city hall. When the Mayor sits at his desk, he’s only a few steps away from where his old apartment stood!
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THE 1929 MARION TEXTILE STRIKE
In 1929, strikes began to break out at textile mills across the American South. The mill workers’ discontent stemmed from long hours at low pay, deplorable working conditions, and the general callousness with which they were treated by their employers. In the spring of ’29 a strike began in Elizabethton, TN followed by Greenville, SC and Gastonia, NC.
In May of that year, workers at Marion Manufacturing sought assistance from the United Textile Workers Union after they were ordered to work additional time each day without additional pay. In about a month, the union was strong enough in Marion to hold an open meeting at the county courthouse with employees from Marion Manufacturing and nearby Clinchfield Mill attending. Officers were chosen and soon the organization boasted several hundred members. Differing opinions about the unionization of Marion’s textile mills tore families and the community apart. Tensions escalated through the summer and confrontations increased.
In the early morning of October 2, 1929, workers who had “walked out” and other workers picketing outside Marion Manufacturing soon found themselves in deadly conflict with the sheriff, six of his deputies, and seven anti-union employees who had been deputized on the spot. Tear gas was released and a flurry of shots followed. Three mill workers died immediately and three more died of their wounds over the coming days. Dozens of workers were wounded. The events at Marion Manufacturing became front page news across the country, and famed author and columnist Sinclair Lewis came to town to write about the situation.
In 2004, Mike Lawing published his book The Marion Massacre, the most comprehensive examination of the Marion events to date. The next year, Kim Clark and Ellen Pfirrmann of public radio WNCW produced “Strike”, a week-long series about the Marion strike largely based around Lawing’s work.
WNCW and its license holder Isothermal Community College have granted permission for all five segments of this program to be made available here:
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In segment 2 of “Strike”, we hear about the discovery of the union-related personal effects of Roy Price, an early organizer at Marion Manufacturing and the first president of the union. In the video below you can see many of these materials along with related photos and newspaper articles. The song that accompanies the images is “Cotton Dust” by The Carburetors, written by Jay Goree and used by permission.To hear a happier account of life in the Clinchfield Mill Village, listen to our interview with Mrs. Glenys Gilbert, lifelong Clinchfield resident, by clicking here.