Reverend Dr. John Bernard Clarke

June 6, 1935February 16, 2018

The Reverend Dr. John Bernard Clarke, born in Memphis, Tennessee on June 6, 1935, died Friday, February 16, 2018 in Jackson, Tennessee at the age of 82. John was preceded in death by his parents, Lawrence Everett Murphy and Ruby Marie Rushton Murphy, his brother James Everett Murphy, and his brother-in-law, Billy Eugene Winston. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Bobbie Lou Winston Clarke; his son John Timothy Clarke; his grandchildren Adam Winston Clarke, Andrew William Clarke, and Olivia Lou Grace Clarke; his sisters Betty (Ed) Laity and Joyce Beasley; and a brother Luther (Mary Nell) Murphy as well as several nieces and nephews. John was a graduate of Central High School in Memphis, Tennessee in 1953 and continued his education at Lambuth College in Jackson, Tennessee, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1957. Moving on to Nashville, Tennessee, John attended Vanderbilt University Divinity School graduating in 1959 with a Bachelor of Divinity degree. He also received a Masters of Divinity from Vanderbilt in 1972 and earned his Doctorate of Divinity from Vanderbilt in 1978. John was an active minister of the United Methodist Church in the Memphis Annual Conference for over 60 years. His began his service in ministry in 1957 as a Probationary Member of the Conference, became a Deacon of the church in 1958, and ordained an Elder in 1960. He served the following churches and congregations throughout West Tennessee and Western Kentucky: New Trinity (1956), Lebanon-Carmel-Concord (1956-1959), Gadsden (1959-1960), Fairview-Northside Jackson (1960-1964), Union Avenue Memphis (1964-1966), Bardwell-Corinith (1966-1969), Broadway Paducah (1969-1972), Pleasant Valley Union City (1972-1977), McKenzie (1977-1982), Reidland Paducah (1982-1987), Whitehaven Memphis (1987-1989), Fulton (1989-1993), Capleville (1993-1995), Brownville (1995-1998). Upon his "official retirement" in 1998, John was appointed in Oak Grove UMC in the greater Jackson area. This projected "short-term" appointment eventually stretched into 17 years, serving as a joyous conclusion of his six decades in the pulpit. Finally, John served as Minister of Pastoral Care at Forrest Heights UMC in Jackson from 2015 until his death. His last years were filled with continuing to serve and comfort others. John was involved in many areas and ministries of the Memphis Annual Conference. He served for years as a counselor and camp director at Lakeshore UMC Camp in Eva, Tennessee, working with the youth of the church. He also served on numerous boards and councils of the Conference, including the Conference Council on Ministries, and the Conference Board of Pensions. Beyond the Sunday morning sermons, John was very active in all levels of the local churches that he served. He taught Sunday School classes and lead Bible Studies throughout his ministry. He particularly enjoyed leading the annual confirmation classes of young teenagers, bringing them into full membership into the church. John could often be found making coffee, sweeping the floors, mowing the grass or painting the walls of the church buildings. If there was a need, John filled it. In 1960, John was appointed to the Fairview-Northside circuit in Jackson. At the time, Northside UMC was meeting in a barn across North Highland Avenue from its present location. He helped the congregation grow and to shortly move into their first sanctuary, where he and the other members personally laid the bricks and finished the walls. Today, from those first seeds of HOPE, Northside's campus dwarfs the original buildings as a testimony to his and countless others hard work and faith. Outside of his service to his churches and the Lord, John's greatest joy was his family. His wife, "Miss Bobbie", was his partner in life, service, and love. John and Bobbie were married on August 26, 1956 in Parsons, Tennessee. From the time that they had met at Lambuth College until the last days of John's life on earth, they filled every day with laughter. If they ever had an argument, no on heard it. It is quite possible a cross word was never spoken between them. Their love and devotion has been a reflection of their love of Christ and an example for all to follow. His, son, Tim, and his grandchildren, Adam, Andrew, and Olivia, were especially cherished. John's time and devotion to family was a cornerstone of his life and faith. John was a licensed private pilot who spent many hours in the cockpit. He was a master wood-worker, who made hundreds of custom gifts for others. He was an avid reader whose personal library numbered in the thousands of books, all of which we believe he had read. Additionally, John was an prolific writer. Having struggled with English and writing in his high school years, he became determined to become a master of the word. He wrote prolifically throughout his life. Eventually, John authored over 2,000 sermons and delivered them from pulpits across the nation. During the period of 1972 to 1977 which was his time at Pleasant Valley UMC in Union City, Tennessee, John wrote a weekly newsletter which included a column that he called "Monday Morning Musings". The notes and thoughts on faith and life gained a wide following, often be read on local radio and re-published in the local paper. His son and grandchildren have recently found all 260 of these "Monday Morning Musing" and are the process of having them published into book in his memory. He was loved by all. Never met a stranger. Always ready with a kind hand or a good joke. "Doc" as his family called him, was greatly loved and respected. His presence on earth will be missed, but we know that God's host of angels are continuously rejoicing his arrival in heaven. Matthew 25:21 King James Version (KJV) 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. John's family invites you to join us in a celebration of Doc's life, our beloved husband, father, grandfather, pastor, and friend. Services for Dr. John B. Clarke will be held at Forest Heights United Methodist Church located at 863 West Forest Avenue, Jackson, Tennessee on Tuesday, February 20, at 11 a.m. Visitation will be in the Church sanctuary from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. immediately preceding the service. Interment to follow at Highland Memorial Gardens, 3360 North Highland Avenue, Jackson, Tennessee. Dr. Clarke had requested memorials be sent to either Forest Heights UMC or Northside UMC, both in Jackson, Tennessee in lieu of flowers.


  • Visitation Tuesday, February 20, 2018
  • Funeral Tuesday, February 20, 2018
  • Burial Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Reverend Dr. John Bernard Clarke

have a memory or condolence to add?

Russell Gallimore

February 20, 2018

Bobbie, Tim & family: Carroll and I send love and prayers. I'm thankful for so many wonderful memories dating back to our first meeting on the Lambuth campus in 1953. From working together in the kitchen to sharing classes, we had a good time. What a hoot to be John's roommate and to share many fraternal times. Call on us in any way we can be of assistance in the days ahead. Peace!
Rev. Russell N. Gallimore


February 19, 2018

Our sincere condolences. May you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends and by the words found at 1 Thessalonians 4:14.

Art Wels

February 18, 2018

Ms. Clarke & Tim:

I am so sorry to hear of Mr. Clarke's passing. If I can help you in any way, please call on me. You are in my prayers.

Art Wells

sarah Pate

February 17, 2018

Dear Bobbie and family,
My deepest sympathy is extended to you. John was a wonderful man and he will be missed. He is preaching with our heavenly father now....what a team! May God bless you and yours and give you peace.
My Love and Sympathy, Sarah Pate

Patty Little West

February 17, 2018

I am very sorry to hear from our cousin Becky of the passing of John. He was always know by the family as a very fine man. My Aunt Marie was always very proud of him and I know he will be missed by all.

February 17, 2018

May God's loving kindness comfort you and help you through this very sad time
Psalms 29:11