When Ron Clark moved to the nation’s capital from Los Angeles in the early 1970s, he arrived just in the nick of time. D.C. was in the throes of a major drug epidemic and substances including heroin, powder and crack cocaine, along with PCP and other hallucinogens were strangling the life out of adults and youths, men and women alike, all across the city. For those who wanted out of the dark places drug addiction had taken them, and were seeking treatment, voluntarily or by court order, Clark got here right on time, and he offered a rare wholistic, African-centered, drug-free approach to treatment that proved to be safe, effective and long-lasting.
Clark did not believe in prescribing a drug to treat drug addiction. Those who were prescribed methadone, a substance that further addicts its users who are trying to wean themselves from other substances, eventually found themselves at Ron’s doorstep where he offered them a bed, a meal, daily duties, counseling and a community of caring licensed professionals and volunteers that assisted them on their road to recovery. For nearly half a century, thousands of former addicts have enrolled in the Regional Addiction Prevention Program started by Clark and later just called, RAP, Inc., and left providing documented success and testimonials about how the nationally recognized program saved their life.
Sadly, Ron Clark died on May 14 after a prolonged illness that took him away from operating RAP on a day-to day basis several years ago. He was 83. He leaves behind a loving and supportive wife, Angela Owens Clark, a former television news executive at NBC4, a son, several grandchildren and other relatives. He also leaves The Calvin Rolark Center, residential treatment facility located at 1949 Fourth Street, N.E., named after the founder of the United Black Fund, a grant-making organization that supported Clark’s cause for decades. RAP’s services have expanded to include HIV services, nutritional counseling, primary medical care and emergency housing.
In the coming days, District residents will hear more and be reminded about Ron Clark, the visionary whose mission saved the lives of many. A memorial service will be here held in July, following funeral services that will be held June 4 in Los Angeles.
Clark’s legacy will live on in D.C. through those who are living productive lives, their families, and the communities that benefited. They will continue to tell the story about the program — RAP — and the man that started it — Ron Clark — and how their lives were saved because of both.