Edward Clark, governor of Texas, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on April 1, 1815, the son of Elijah Clark, Jr., a brother of John Clark, governor of Georgia from 1819 to 1823. Edward Clark spent his early childhood in Georgia. After the death of his father in the early 1830s, he and his mother moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar. In 1840 he was married to Lucy Long in Alabama, but his wife died within a few months. By December 1841 Clark had moved to Texas and opened a law practice in Marshall. In July 1849 he married Martha Melissa (Mellissa, Malissa) Evans, daughter of William F. Evans, of Marshall. The couple had four children.
Clark was a delegate to the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1845, a member of the first state House of Representatives, and a senator in the Second Legislature. He served on the staff of Gen. J. Pinckney Henderson in the Mexican War and received a citation for bravery in the battle of Monterrey. From 1853 to 1857 he was secretary of state under Governor Elisha M. Pease. He was appointed state commissioner of claims in 1858 and was elected lieutenant governor of Texas on the independent Democratic ticket headed by Sam Houston in 1859. In 1860 he lived in Austin, Texas. He owned $5,000 in real estate and $10,240 in personal property which included nine enslaved people.
When Governor Houston refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy in the spring of 1861, the Secession Convention declared the office of governor vacant and elevated Clark to the position. As governor, he moved quickly to address problems brought about by secession. Regiments commanded by John S. (Rip) Ford and Henry E. McCulloch were mustered to protect the frontier, ad valorem and poll taxes were raised in an effort to stabilize the state's finances, and the state was divided into military districts for recruiting and organizing the troops required by the Confederate government. After the firing upon Fort Sumter and the outbreak of war, Clark worked closely with Confederate authorities to help obtain supplies for the army. The archaic state militia system was reorganized, and a system of training camps was built. Clark proceeded cautiously and within his constitutional powers. Even so, he exercised more authority and power than any previous Texas chief executive in recruiting, enrolling, and training troops, in purchasing weapons and supplies, and in communication with Confederate officials and governors of Mexican states.
He ran for election to a full term as governor in the autumn of 1861 but was defeated in an extremely close race by Francis R. Lubbock. Lubbock, who had the support of regular Democratic party leaders, received 21,854 votes, Clark, 21,730, and Thomas Jefferson Chambers, 13,733. Although there were widespread rumors of fraud, Clark accepted the outcome of the election without protest.
After he left the governor's office, he received a commission in the Confederate Army as colonel of the Fourteenth Texas Infantry regiment, which served as part of Walker's Texas Division in the repulse of the Union invasion in the Red River campaign of 1864. Clark was wounded in the leg while leading an attack at the battle of Pleasant Hill and subsequently discharged from the army. He was promoted to the rank of brigadier general before his discharge, but the promotion may not have been confirmed by the Richmond government.
When the Civil War ended, Clark fled to Mexico with other prominent civil and military leaders of the Southwest. He remained there only briefly and returned to his home in Marshall. After several business ventures, he resumed his law practice. He was a member of the Masons and Knights Templar, and belonged to the local Baptist church. He also served as president of the Harrison County Veterans of the Mexican War organization in 1876. In 1878 he was a founding member and permanent chairman, until his death, of the Citizen’s Party of Harrison County. He died on May 4, 1880, and was buried in Marshall.