Shirley Clarke, former civic leader and community activist, dies at 86

7/14/2017, 7:42 a.m.
Shirley Hagins Johnson Clarke enjoyed trying new career directions.

Shirley Hagins Johnson Clarke enjoyed trying new career directions.

For a time, she read blueprints for her contractor father, James A. Hagins, as he reassembled the Belgiam Friendship Building on the Virginia Union University campus and constructed houses in North Side.

She later worked for North Carolina Mutual Insurance Co., served as director of the Washington Park Playground with the city Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities and worked as a compliance specialist for the Richmond Department of Social Services before she retired.

And for 30 years, she also sold Avon products.

The Richmond native died Sunday, July 2, 2017, at a Richmond area assisted living facility. She was 86.

Friends and family paid final tributes to Mrs. Clarke on Friday, July 7, 2017, at Providence Park Baptist Church, where she was a longtime and active member until her health failed.

The church’s pastor, the Rev. Jerome C. Ross, delivered the eulogy. She was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

The widow of George Clarke Sr., Mrs. Clarke was just 16 when she graduated from Maggie L. Walker High School as valedictorian of the Class of 1947.

She went on to study architectural design at Virginia State University, where she earned the nickname “Skates” from classmates because she walked so swiftly across the campus, her family said.

Mrs. Clarke was active in civic affairs. She chaired National Night Out programs for the Chestnut Hill Civic Association and was active in the Highland Park Restoration and Preservation Program.

She also was a former member of the Delver Junior Women’s Club.

Survivors include three daughters, Alice Johnson, Shirley Johnson White and Marjorie Williams; two sons, Tyrone Johnson and Benjamin Johnson; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.