The Reverend Gregory L. Clarke (born May 13, 1958 in Bessemer) is the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, which has two locations, in West End and South Avondale. In addition to pastoring the church's 6,000 members, he has served as superintendent of the New Hope Christian School and managed the New Hope Credit Union and the Garden of Hope senior apartment complex that the church founded. He was also president of the Southwest Area Network (SWAN), a community development corporation, and a trustee of the Easonian Baptist Bible College.
Clarke, the son of Louis and Eva Clarke, grew up in a Bessemer housing project. He attended UAB in the 1970s, but dropped out after three years. He earned his bachelor's degree at Birmingham-Southern College in 1993 and went on to post-graduate studies at Harvard Divinity School and Boston College. Clarke came to New Hope in 1986 and presided over the founding of the second campus in Avondale in 2001.
In 2004 IRS officials received an anonymous letter that led to an investigation of Clarke's personal finances. At issue were his failure to report gifts from the church as personal income. His defense maintained that though he may have been negligent, that prosecutors would be unable to prove criminal intent. Clarke has stated that he believes the criminal investigation was motivated by his relationship with former Governor Don Siegelman, who is also serving time in federal prison.
Nevertheless, he was convicted on three counts of filing false returns on July 20, 2007. On December 18 he was sentenced to serve 21 months in federal prison and to pay $35,684 in restitution. He reported to the U. S. Penitentiary in Atlanta on February 15 to begin serving his sentence. Clarke and his supporters held prayer meetings in front of the Hugo L. Black Federal Courthouse in the days prior.
During Clarke's imprisonment, Kelvin Bryant commuted from Dallas, Texas to lead Sunday services at both campuses. Fred Williams succeeded him as president of the credit union while Troy Whetstone took over management of the Garden of Hope apartments. SWAN was dissolved in the wake of his conviction, and the leadership of the Christian school was turned over to Vonceil Robinson. He resumed his preaching duties in April 2009 while under the supervision of a halfway house. He completed his sentence on August 23. The church celebrated with a "Freedom Fun Day".
In 2011, Clarke wrote a memoir entitled Light Will Make Rats Run. He is married (Regina) and has four children.
- Garrison, Greg (November 2, 2006) "More pastors willing to focus on preaching." Birmingham News
- Walton, Val (July 17, 2007) "Pastor's income called 'offerings'" Birmingham News
- Walton, Val (July 21, 2007) "Clarke guilty on all counts." Birmingham News
- Walton, Val (December 19, 2007) "The Rev. Gregory Clarke gets 21 months in prison for filing false income taxes, not reporting income. Sentence starts Feb. 15." Birmingham News
- Garrison, Greg (February 14, 2008) "Group rallies for Birmingham pastor days before he begins prison sentence." Birmingham News
- Garrison, Greg (February 17, 2008) "New Hope Baptist Church pastor the Rev. Gregory Clarke, leaves behind plans for running church." Birmingham News
- Gordon, Robert K. (March 21, 2009) "Birmingham, Alabama minister Gregory Clarke's tax fraud conviction upheld." Birmingham News
- Gordon, Robert K. (April 23, 2009) "New Hope Baptist Pastor Gregory Clarke to be released from Atlanta prison today." Birmingham News
- Spencer, Thomas (August 23, 2009) "Church celebrates end of pastor's sentence for tax fraud." Birmingham News
- Troncale, Bernard (November 26, 2009) "I am thankful: Rev. Gregory Clarke." Birmingham News
- Clarke, Gregory (2011) Light Will Make Rats Run. Birmingham: self-published
- Garrison, Greg (April 3, 2011) "Rev. Gregory L. Clarke writes memoir, says life back to normal after prison." Birmingham News
 External links
- Pastor Clarke Autobiography at New Hope's website