Dr. James W. Clark, Jr. to Receive North Carolina Humanities Council’s Highest Honor

Jim Clark Jr. 4.22.20

Article originally published April 23, 2020 | Updated June 23, 2020.


CHARLOTTE, NC (April, 23, 2020) – The North Carolina Humanities Council has selected Dr. James W. Clark, Jr. as the recipient of the 2020 John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, the Council’s most prestigious honor.

Dr. Clark is being honored for his statewide impact and achievements as a program director, professor, North Carolina literary historian, and public humanities scholar.

For the first time ever the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities ceremony will be held virtually! The award celebration will take place online this Fall 2020. This unique digital program format honoring the 2020 honoree - Dr. James W. Clark, Jr. - will bring the celebration straight into your home! Information about the virtual ceremony date, gift opportunities and tickets is forthcoming.*

As part of the ceremony, Christie Hinson Norris, Director of Carolina K-12, has been chosen by Dr. Clark to present the annual John Tyler Caldwell Lecture in the Humanities. Carolina K-12 is a program of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Public Humanities and works to extend the resources of UNC-Chapel Hill to North Carolina’s K-12 educators. 

2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, created in 1990 to honor distinguished individuals who have strengthened the educational, cultural, and civic life of North Carolinians through their life’s work. It is named for its first recipient and a founding member of the North Carolina Humanities Council, the late Dr. John Tyler Caldwell. Recently recognized Caldwell Award laureates include Jaki Shelton Green (2019), Dr. Margaret D. Bauer (2018), and Bland Simpson (2017).

A native North Carolinian, Dr. James W. Clark, Jr. has championed and contributed to North Carolina’s rich literary and cultural heritage for nearly six decades. He holds degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke and is English Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University, where he served on the faculty for almost 40 years. During his first decade at State, his chancellor and mentor was Dr. Caldwell. Both men emphasized the importance of humanities education on and off campus.

Dr. Clark directed NCSU’s statewide Humanities Extension/Publications Program until 2003. He and his staff produced numerous cultural geography videos about North Carolina writers in a series called Talk About Writing. These original productions were shown and discussed across the state during free seminars for the general public as well as in classrooms and summer camps. Talk About Writing featured, among others, eventual Caldwell laureates Doris Waugh Betts (1992), Reynolds Price (2002), and Fred Chappell (2010).

In 1992 Dr. Clark edited Thomas Wolfe’s novella The Lost Boy for UNC Press. His 1984 social history of North Carolina’s 4-H youth development program was followed by Clover All Over: North Carolina’s First 4-H Century, published in 2010. Dr. Clark continues to be actively involved with 4-H as a donor, archivist, and committee chair of the NC 4-H History and Learning Center located at Millstone 4-H Camp in Richmond County. In October 2017 he was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

In 2017 Dr. Clark completed a decade as president of The Paul Green Foundation. Previously he has served as president of The Thomas Wolfe Society and The North Carolina Literary and Historical Association. Currently he is president of The North Caroliniana Society and a board member of Carolina Public Humanities. Dr. Clark also chairs the selection committee of the NC Literary Hall of Fame, which inducted him in October 2018 during a ceremony at Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities in Southern Pines. That same month he published Finding and Keeping Vaughan, NC: Our Hometown, a social and political history about the area of Warren County where he grew up.

Having retired from NCSU in 2005, Dr. Clark remains an engaged humanist. He draws inspiration from his volunteer work with active teachers and authors, 4-H’ers, and especially from the senior citizens who take part in the life writing workshops he conducts at continuing care communities and senior centers across Wake County where he lives. 

For John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities support inquiries, please contact Melanie Moore Richeson directly at mmoore@nchumanities.org.

*All event dates and related information are subject to change based on COVID-19 national and state guidelines and circumstances.

Photo credit: Robert T. Bell

About the North Carolina Humanities Council

The North Carolina Humanities Council is a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Through grant-making and public humanities programs, the Council serves as an advocate for lifelong learning and thoughtful dialogue about our shared human experience. The Council operates the North Carolina Center for the Book, an affiliate program of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. To learn more visit www.nchumanities.org