By Elizabeth Palmer ’92
A history major and president of her class at Trinity, Judge Jeanette Jackson Clark ’70 envisioned being a lawyer during her days at Trinity but chose education as a starting point for her career. She experienced at Trinity an educational model of small class sizes and a robust curriculum that she carried into her own classrooms.
“It was part of the mission to facilitate the educational experience of women and to be service oriented,” said Clark regarding both her Trinity experience and her career path in education and public service.
After graduation she taught in Sharon, Mass. and then pursued a Master of Science in Education. After completing her advanced degree at Wheelock University, Clark spent 10 years in education, returning first to teach at a Montessori School in D.C., followed by four years in the D.C. Public Schools.
A Washington native who attended D.C. Public Schools as a child, Clark returned first as a teacher for one year, then served as the Coordinator of the Early Childhood Education Program for three years, supervising the Head Start, Preschool and Kindergarten teachers and children in a D.C. Public Elementary School. She would then go on to teach at Sidwell Friends School for three years.
Though she enjoyed teaching, and says she still misses it from time to time, Clark felt that the law was “the best way to actualize my skills.”
She worked occasional weekends at a law firm, and eventually began pursuing her law degree part time in the evening at Catholic University before transferring to Howard University Law School full time.
While in law school, she worked for a law firm, for several federal and District government agencies, and for Howard University, and completed her JD in 1983.
After law school, Clark was a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Warren R. King when he was an Associate Judge at the D.C. Superior Court. King, now a retired judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals, would later swear her in at her own investiture. It was here that Clark got a glimpse of her own career future, though she didn’t know it at the time.
She then spent almost two years in private practice with the D.C. law firm of Steptoe & Johnson, and served as Assistant and Associate General Counsel to the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and Deputy General Counsel to the D.C. Public Housing Authority before being named to the bench.
Hers is a soft-spoken authority. She loves this work and she takes it very seriously. You can see and hear echoes of the teacher when she talks about the responsibility to be well prepared for your cases and to make good choices.
Clark, who is married to Catholic University Law Professor Leroy Clark and has two stepsons, one of whom is a patent attorney, has maintained a strong bond with her alma mater, serving six years on the Board of Trustees, and supporting College events and fund raising efforts. She has also utilized Trinity students as volunteer judicial interns in her office.
She recommends internships for Trinity students in any career field and recalled her own internship on the Hill during her freshman year at Trinity. “Washington is so full of opportunities for education beyond the classroom,” she said.