Henry Toole Clark

33rd Governor of the State of North Carolina - 1861 to 1862

Date Born: February 7, 1808

Date Died: April 14, 1874

Place Born: Edgecombe County, NC

Place Buried: Calvary Episcopal Cemetery, Tarboro, NC

Residence: Edgecombe County, NC

Occupation: Farmer


Henry Toole Clark was born on February 7, 1808 at Walnut Creek Plantation in Edgecombe County, NC, the son of James West Clark and Arabella (Toole) Clark. He studied first in the school of George Phillips in Tarboro and then attended school in Louisburg. Clark then attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was a member of Dialectic Society. He graduated with honors in 1826 and later earned an A.M. in 1832.

Henry Toole Clark then read law at Raleigh under his uncle, William H. Haywood. He joined the North Carolina bar a year later, though he rarely practiced. He spent most of his time managing the family's extensive land and slave holdings in North Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee. The Clarks owned as many as sixty-two slaves, many of whom were hired out to others for their labor.

On February 11, 1850, Henry Toole Clarke married his cousin, the widow of Franklin Hargrave, Mrs. Mary Weeks Parker Hargrave, daughter of Theophilus Parker and Mary Irwin (Toole) Parker; they had five children

In 1850, Henry Toole Clark was first elected to represent the NC Senate District 10 (Edgecombe County) in the NC Senate of the:
- 68th General Assembly that met from 1850-1851
- 69th General Assembly that met in 1852
- 70th General Assembly that met from 1854-1855
- 71st General Assembly that met from 1856-1857
- 72nd General Assembly that met from 1858-1859 - elected Speaker of the Senate
- 73rd General Assembly that met from 1860-1861 - elected Speaker of the Senate

Upon the death of Gov. John Willis Ellis on July 7, 1861, as the Speaker of the Senate, Henry Toole Clark was sworn in as Acting Governor of North Carolina until September 8, 1862, when Zebulon B. Vance took the oath of office. Gov. Clark mobilized thousands of soldiers for the Southern cause, established the only Confederate prison in North Carolina, arranged the production of salt for the war effort, created European purchasing connections, and built a successful and important gunpowder mill. The conservative Gov. Clark, however, found more success as an administrator than as a political figure. As governor, he was unable to maneuver in the new political world ushered in by the Civil War, and he retired abruptly from public service at the end of his term in September 1862.

In 1866, Henry Toole Clark was again elected to represent the NC Senate District 10 (Edgecombe County) in the NC Senate of the:
- 77th General Assembly that met from 1866-1867

Henry Toole Clark backed President Andrew Johnson’s lenient Reconstruction plan. He joined the newly formed Conservative Party made up of Democrats and former Whigs to oppose the Republicans and North Carolina’s 1868 Constitution which modernized the state’s antebellum government and granted certain rights to the newly freed slaves. He resisted “radical” Congressional Reconstruction and as a state Senator voted against ratification of the 14th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.

In addition to his political activities, Henry Toole Clark spent his last years working on genealogical projects and collecting artifacts and memorabilia from North Carolina’s history.

Henry Toole Clark died on April 14, 1874 and he was buried in the Calvary Episcopal Cemetery in Tarboro, NC.


Henry Toole Clark (7 February 1808 – 14 April 1874) was the Democratic governor of the U.S. state of North Carolina from 1861 to 1862 during the American Civil War.

Henry T. Clark was born to a prominent Edgecombe County, North Carolina, planter family. The Clarks were members of that elite planter class that dominated social and political thought in eastern North Carolina. Henry Clark devoted over twenty years to the service of the Democratic Party at the local, state, and national levels, and over ten years as a state senator.

As Speaker of the North Carolina Senate, Clark became Governor when John W. Ellis died in office, under the law of the time. He served as the state’s chief executive from July 1861 to September 1862, a crucial period in which North Carolina established itself as a constituent member of the Confederate States and first suffered the hardships of war.

As the leader of the state in that formative period, he mobilized thousands of soldiers for the Southern cause, established the first, and only, Confederate prison in North Carolina, arranged the production of salt for the war effort, created European purchasing connections, and built a successful and important gunpowder mill. The conservative Clark, however, found more success as an administrator than as a political figure. As governor, he was unable to maneuver in the new political world ushered in by the Civil War, and he retired abruptly from public service at the end of his term in September 1862.

In his later years, he served the local Democratic party and returned for one term as a state senator in 1866. Clark died at his home near Tarboro, North Carolina.


Henry Toole Clark, governor of North Carolina, was born near Tarboro, NC on February 7, 1808. His education was attained at the George Phillips School, at the Louisburg Academy, and at the University of North Carolina, where he earned an undergraduate degree in 1826 and an A.M. degree in 1832. He went on to study law, however he never practiced. Clark first entered politics as Court Clerk, a position he won election to in 1840. He also served as a member of the NC Senate from 1850 to 1861, as well as serving as Senate Speaker from 1858 to 1861. On July 7, 1861 Governor John Willis Ellis died in office, and Clark, who was Senate Speaker at the time, assumed the duties of the governorship. During his tenure, the Civil War had started, and volunteers, arms, and provisions were raised for the war effort. Also, a confederate prison was organized; and a gunpowder mill was established. After leaving the governorship, Clark served again in the NC Senate, an office held from 1866 to 1867. Henry T. Clark passed away on April 14, 1874, and was buried in the Calvary Episcopal Cemetery in Tarboro, North Carolina.

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