Joseph Addison Clark, preacher, journalist, and teacher, was born on November 6, 1815, in Shawneetown, Illinois, and named Zachariah by his parents, Thomas Dyson and Jane (Cunningham) Clark. He spent his childhood near Columbia and Clarksville, Tennessee. At twelve he assumed responsibility for his mother and two younger sisters when his father murdered a man in New Orleans and fled. His father was thought to have drowned in a shipwreck, but he survived and went to Texas, where he served in the Texas army after the Texas Revolution. Clark and his father were reunited briefly in 1840. In 1826 the family moved to Alabama to be near Jane Clark's brother. During this time Clark managed to educate himself and took the name Joseph Addison because he admired the works of the British writer of the same name.
Clark moved to Texas with his sisters and mother in 1839. His mother died soon after the family landed at Matagorda. Clark and his sister Mary settled briefly in Austin, where he worked as a printer on the earlier Austin Texas Sentinel. Delayed while attempting to return to Kentucky in 1841, Clark worked as a surveyor in East Texas. There he met Esther (Hetty) DeSpain, and they were married in 1842. They moved to Titus County because of the Regulator-Moderator War. Through Esther's influence and after reading the debate between Alexander Campbell and Robert Owen, Clark became a Christian and spent most of his remaining life as a Christian educator, preacher, and journalist.
In Texas he was associated with the Western Argus in Bonham in 1847, the Rusk Pioneer in 1849, the Galveston News in 1850, the Palestine Advocate in 1852, and the Bonham Advertiser in 1858. He conducted schools in Titus County in 1843, at Midway in 1855–56, and in Fort Worth from 1869 to 1873, before purchasing a school conducted by two church associates, H. D. Bantau and a man named Cook, at Thorp Spring. The Thorp Spring school opened in the fall of 1873 and was named Add-Ran College (now Texas Christian University) in memory of AddRan, Clark's first grandson. After moving to Thorp Spring Clark edited The Texas Christian and The Add-Ran Student. In 1879 he relinquished control of the school to his two sons, Addison and Randolph.
Clark published extensively in the Gospel Advocate of Nashville, Tennessee, and the Firm Foundation of Austin, Texas. He wrote a column in the former entitled "Briefs" beginning in 1890. He also published material directed to young people under the pen name "Uncle Joe" in the same paper. Clark died on January 11, 1901, in Thorp Spring.