Black History Month at SUNY Broome: Ben Clarke

Ben Clarke from a 1950 newspaper article

Ben Clarke from a 1950 newspaper article

This post is part of a Black History Month series on SUNY Broome students, faculty and staff of color, who have been a valued part of the campus community since the college’s founding in 1946.

Blazing speed, State Tech lightning: These were some of the terms local newspapers used to describe Ben Clarke, an indelible part of Hornets basketball history.

A graduate of Binghamton North High School where he played multiple sports, Clarke attended SUNY Broome only a few years after its 1946 founding, back when it was referred to as “State Tech.” He was a frequent sight on newspaper sports pages.

“Ebony-skinned Ben Clarke led State Tech to the win, dropping in 22 points,” the Binghamton Press reported in February 1950. In 1950, the Sunday Press named him Basketball Player of the Year.

He received the same designation a year later from the Binghamton Press, after he led the Hornets to their fourth straight Empire State Conference championship. “Clarke was an inspiration to his teammates and scored many of his baskets at key points in crucial games,” reporter Charley Peet wrote.

After graduating from State Tech in 1951 with a degree in Technical Office, Clarke went on to attend Hartwick College, where he was one of the first African-American male students.

During his time at Hartwick, he pledged to the local chapter of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity – despite the fact that the national organization forbade the admission of black students. When the national organization refused to recognize him, the Hartwick chapter left their newly purchased house and returned to its original Alpha Delta Omega designation to keep Clarke as a member, according to the fraternity’s Facebook page.

“The time spent as PSK, and the events surrounding the pledging of Ben Clarke have left an indelible imprint on the fraternity, and the principled stand of the brothers of the 1950s is remembered and honored by the brotherhood as one of our proudest moments to this day,” ADO wrote.