CWRU Links
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLARKE, MELCHISEDECH CLARENCE

CLARKE, MELCHISEDECH CLARENCE

CLARKE, MELCHISEDECH CLARENCE (10 Nov. 1889-9 May 1956), known as M. C. or Mel, founded and developed agencies which enabled AFRICAN AMERICANS in Cleveland to obtain insurance and loans. He was the first African American member of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce and served on Cleveland's city planning commission (1946). Born in Lewiston, NC, son of Barbadres (Jesse) Clarke and Elydia (Pew) Clarke, he was educated at Franklin Normal School, Kittrell College (NC), and the University of Cincinnati. An insurance salesman and deputy county clerk in Cincinnati, he came to Cleveland in 1923 as district manager of the Supreme Life and Casualty Company (later the SUPREME LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA). A few years later, he created the Imperial Finance Corporation in Cincinnati. In 1934, Clarke organized the Dunbar Mutual Insurance Society in Cleveland out of 4 struggling fraternal insurance societies which he had investigated in 1930 as state insurance examiner. Clarke served as president of Dunbar after leaving state office in 1937. He founded the Bardun Mortgage and Investment Company in 1939. In 1943 Clarke expanded, incorporating the Dunbar Life Insurance Company, opened in April 1945. Thirteen years later, the statewide company had assets of over $7.5 million. After Dunbar merged with Supreme Life Insurance (1960), Clarke became president of that company's Ohio Division. In 1954 he purchased the ailing QUINCY SAVINGS & LOAN and, as president, quickly developed it into a thriving concern.

Clarke was married on 28 June 1913 to Callie Mack Clarke. Clarke converted to Catholicism in 1924. The Catholic Interracial Council of New York named him Negro Catholic Layman of 1947 and awarded him the James J. Hoey Award for Interracial Justice in 1949. A trustee of Central State College, Wilberforce, OH, Clarke had received honorary degress from that institution as well as from Morris Brown College in Atlanta, GA. He is buried in CALVARY CEMETERY in Cleveland.