Dick Clark was born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York. He died after a heart attack in 2012 at the age of 82.
We have only one little quote to help us understand Clark’s personal relationship with religion. About those who would ask when he would retire, the icon of American culture said,
I’m not an overly religious man but I believe in God. I figure He will tell me to quit by taking me away. That’ll be the day I’m either too sick or I drop dead in my tracks. I don’t want to stop. I’m having too much fun.1
And after he died, his family didn’t hold a religious service for him. Instead they scattered his ashes over the Pacific ocean.2
He has a long line of New England ancestry dating all the way back to the 1600’s and the voyage of the Mayflower,3 so there’s Christianity somewhere back there, most likely Protestant and Puritan–although to what extent that translated into Clark’s not overly religious belief in God, we don’t know.
The Businessman and Race
Clark understood how important politics could be to a businessman like himself. He once said,
A lot of the whole world that kids don’t understand is politics and money. When you learn politics, money, the advertising world, where the skeletons are buried, you have then matured enough to stay alive. . . . One must learn to screw the system from within.4
Maybe it was his role as a businessman, his belief in free enterprise and individual initiative, or his friendships with Republican politicians5 that makes people think he was a Republican.6 But as far as I could tell, it wasn’t because Clark ever explicitly called himself one.
His legacy in American political history, however, lies in his contribution to race relations. In his role as host of the TV show American Bandstand, he is often remembered as a pioneer of integration for featuring black musicians and eventually an integrated audience. Clark himself said,
I’m proud to say “Bandstand” was. . . one of the first integrated shows on national television. After all, there would’ve been no rock ‘n’ roll without black music. And despite the fears of sponsors, we never received a single protest over the appearance of black couples on the show.7
But as one historian points out, the show’s audience wasn’t integrated until the year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed which ended segregation in public places.8 Even so, many black musicians recall him as an influential positive force for race relations in the country.9
- Life and legacy of Dick Clark. Examiner. [↩]
- Dick Clark to be cremated, no funeral planned. On The Red Carpet. [↩]
- Ancestry of Dick Clark. Wargs. [↩]
- A Dick Clark appreciation: The deceptively laid-back, conservative revolutionary. Entertainment Weekly. [↩]
- GOP lawmaker: Dick Clark should be remembered as model of free enterprise. The Hill. [↩]
- HCR Recommendations. Hollywood Congress of Republicans. [↩]
- Dick Clark’s Memory of Integrating American Bandstand. The Nicest Kids in Town. [↩]
- History of Segregation on American Bandstand. The Nicest Kids in Town. [↩]
- Dick Clark broke racial boundaries. CNN. [↩]