Born: December 16, 1831, Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York
Died: November 7, 1886, Tampa, Florida
Term: October 25, 1866 - December 1866
Born in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, Edward A. Clarke moved to Tampa in 1853, where he opened a general store on the corner of Marion and Washington Streets. In 1855, he married Helen Branch, the daughter of Dr. Franklin Branch and the sister of Dr. Austen Branch, who served as Tampa's second and fourth mayor. The marriage was short-lived, as she died three years later of yellow fever. In 1861, Clarke married Sarah Wall and they had a daughter named Flossie.
A staunch member of the Southern Branch of the American Party, also known as Know-Nothing Party, Edward Clarke strongly supported the party's pro-Slavery, anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant platform. He was also a Hillsborough County delegate to the 1856 Presidential Convention. However, the party disintegrated after their candidate, former president Millard Fillmore, lost the presidential election to James Buchanan.
Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Clarke served as a Confederate States Deputy Marshal and later as a private in the Confederate Army. He became a blockade runner, bringing in food, medicine and other supplies to cities and towns that were guarded by Union ships. He was captured by Union troops and sent to Ship's Island prison, off the coast of Mississippi. Clarke eventually received a Presidential Pardon and returned to Tampa in May 1865. By that time, Tampa had steadily declined economically, socially, and politically. The Union blockade of Tampa's port ruined much of the town's economy while the bombardment by Union ships destroyed a number of homes and businesses. Further, the Confederacy's constant need of recruits combined with individuals who left the area had resulted in a decrease in Tampa's population.
Some former residents of Tampa returned after the war and the citizenry began to rebuild the town. Efforts were made reestablish the town's government. However, it took over a year before the citizens of Tampa were permitted to hold municipal elections. election process and other aspects of the Tampa's government. On October 25, 1866 Edward A. Clarke was elected mayor of Tampa. The new President of the City Council was Josiah A. Ferris, and the other council members included Dr. William A. Liveley, Robert Flournoy Nunez and Bartholomew C. Leonardi.
Prior to his election as Mayor of Tampa, Clarke had served one term on Tampa's City Council. Once elected, Mayor Clarke worked with the council members and passed ordinances to control riots and disturbing the peace. They also levied fees on local businesses to add to the city's treasury. However, Mayor Clarke left office before the end of his term, and Josiah Ferris, Council President, took over as Acting Mayor. Several years later, Clarke returned to politics and served four terms on Tampa's City Council, including one term as Council President from 1873 until 1874. An investor in real estate, he acquired 33 acres north of Harrison Street in 1875 for $255, subdivided it, and incorporated it as North Tampa, which was later annexed into Tampa in 1887. Clarke was one of the original members of the Board of Trade in 1885. He died on November 7, 1886.
Sources for this Biographical Sketch:
Covington, Dr. James W. and Wavering, Debbie Lee, "The Mayors of Tampa: A Brief Administrative History," Tampa, FL: University of Tampa, 1987.
Grismer, Karl H., Tampa: A History of the City and the Tampa Bay Region of Florida, St. Petersburg Printing Company, FL, 1950.
Robinson, Ernest L., History of Hillsborough County, Florida: Narrative and Biographical, The Record Company, St. Augustine, FL, 1928.
Tampa Council Minutes, City of Tampa Archives, Tampa, FL
January 1, 1857 - October 2, 1891 Microfilm Roll # 1
Additional Information supplied by Albert Leach, descendant of Edward A. Clarke