The inspiration behind a classic film has passed away. In 1989, Morgan Freeman starred in Lean on Me as the tough and often brash Joe Clark who turns the out-of-control Eastside High School on its head. It’s one of Freeman’s most memorable roles and was based on the real-life Joe Louis Clark who, over time, became a Paterson, New Jersey legend. Clark’s contributions to the education system have been celebrated for decades, and it was announced on Tuesday (December 29) that the 82-year-old icon passed away.

Paterson Superintendent of Schools Eileen Shafer released this statement about the bullhorn-toting educator following the news of his passing:

“Joe Clark left his indelible mark on public education by being fiercely devoted to the students in his care. He demanded more from his students because he believed they could achieve more than what was expected of them. And with his bullhorn and baseball bat, and Joe Clark courageously stood in the way of anyone who dared to try to lure a young person down the wrong path. Joe Clark was even the subject of a Hollywood movie. But in the end, it is the many lives Joe Clark influenced for the better that have become his greatest legacy. Our hearts are deeply saddened by Joe Clark’s passing, and our prayers are with his family and friends.”

Check out the trailer for Lean on Me below. We offer our condolences to the loved ones of Joe Clark and continue to celebrate his legacy.

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