Tennessee Journalism Hall Of Fame

“Recognizing individuals who have demonstrated outstanding skill in their Journalism field”


Apr 26, 2013 at 12:00 am by Hooper

Clark was the lead news anchor at WTVF (NewsChannel5) in Nashville for 41 years, from 1966, until his retirement in 2007, making him the longest serving anchor in Nashville, and one of the longest-tenured anchors in American television history. In the earlier years of his tenure, Clark also served as the news director.

Prior to arriving at what was then WLAC-TV, he worked in Albany, Ga., and interviewed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Clark's work at NewsChannel 5 took him around the world, reporting from locales such as Israel, the former Soviet Union, Great Britain, and Puerto Rico. He tracked drug lords from Middle Tennessee to the Dominican Republic, and delivered food to people in Somalia with the National Guard

Through the course of his career, Clark crossed paths with several high profile personalities and influential leaders, including President Richard Nixon. He also launched the career of a young journalist named Oprah Winfrey, hiring her for her first television job in 1974.

In December of 1969, an inmate at the Tennessee State Penitentiary took 23 people hostage in the visitors' gallery of the prison. The convict told authorities he would negotiate only with Chris Clark, whom he had seen on television, so Gov. Buford Elington called the news anchor to mediate. A little over four hours later, Clark had brought the situation with the knife-wielding inmate to a peaceful close.

Clark was also on duty during the station's first breaking news story: the emergency swearing-in of Gov. Lamar Alexander to remove the outgoing governor who'd been selling commutations to prisoners. "I was just thinking, my poor newspaper colleagues. By the next morning, everybody not only knew it, they'd seen it," he said.

As chair of the Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Committee, he played a vital role in convincing the Tennessee Supreme Court to allow an experiment with cameras in the court. That experiment persuaded the justices to allow cameras in state courts.

Clark won the 1993 Emmy from the Middle Tennessee chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for a lifetime achievement in broadcast journalism, and the Associated Press "Broadcaster of the Year" award.

Upon his retirement, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a joint resolution, saying, "throughout his estimable career as news anchor of WTVF-Channel 5, Chris Clark has demonstrated the utmost professionalism, ability, and integrity, winning the unbridled respect and admiration of his colleagues and the good people of Middle Tennessee alike. Mr. Clark truly epitomizes the dedicated news professional who is wholly committed to the highest ideals of public service.

Through his internationally recognized work, Chris Clark has distinguished himself by outstanding service to the profession of journalism, and has brought great honor to himself, his community and the State of Tennessee.

Sections: Members | 2013