Politician John Clark (Clarke) was born in Edgecomb County, N.C. on February 28, 1766. Just as the Revolutionary War broke out, Clark’s family moved to Georgia, where his father, Elijah Clarke, became a leader in the backcountry revolt. After spending a year in school in North Carolina, young John returned to help his father. He rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a captain at age sixteen. After the war, Clark became a major general in the Georgia militia. He entered the political ring in 1801, when he was elected to represent Wilkes County in the Georgia General Assembly. Soon, Clark was embroiled in the political factionalism of his times, his chief opponent being William Harris Crawford. The dispute between the two turned bloody in 1802, when Crawford killed a Clark supporter in a duel. Debate between the two continued to rage until they met in a duel themselves in 1807. Crawford was wounded in the duel, but recovered. Clark again challenged Crawford to another duel, but Crawford refused. In response, Clark whipped one of Crawford’s supporters through the streets of Milledgeville.
Crawford went on to serve in the U.S. Senate, while Clark earned support from many the small farmers in his region. In 1819, the legislature elected Clark governor over Crawford-ally George Troup. Clark was subsequently reelected in 1821. His terms as governor saw him trying to institute several democratic reforms, but the only one which soon came to fruition was an attempt to move the election of the governor from the legislature into the hands of the people—which occurred in 1824. Clark retired from Georgia politics the following year, then moved to Florida as a federal Indian agent. He died there on October 12, 1832.