They say the family that prays together stays together. In the case of the Harden family, you can say the family that prays together and plays together stays together. However you describe this South Georgia renaissance family, you can count on faith, fitness, and education also playing a key role.
Sam and Clark Harden met at Valdosta State University, where she was working toward a degree in mass communications and he was majoring in business.
Soon afterward, they married and went on to start a family. They have two sons: Jaycee, 19, and Cam, 14. After early careers that included Sam working as a TV news reporter and Clark involved in business, they both were eventually drawn to education. For Clark, education had always been front and center in his family.
“My mother is a retired English teacher, and both of my parents stressed the importance of education,” he said. “My dad always told me that you can make money with your back or your mind… either way is admirable, but using your mind is easier on your body.”
Clark encouraged his wife to go back to school and become a teacher. She agreed. Sam quit her reporting job and went back to school, enrolling at Albany State University. Through mostly night classes, Sam earned a master’s degree in middle grades education with an emphasis in science and social studies, and her specialty is in curriculum and instruction. She began her career in education as a middle school teacher in Moultrie, Georgia, where she taught reading and language arts.
After six years at the middle school level, she went to Colquitt County High School in 2008, where she taught audio and visual. In 2017, she became the principal at Brooks County Early Learning Center, where she remains today. Clark taught Georgia history and math, along with spending three years as a physical education coach and part-time football coach at Colquitt County. Clark then advanced into the administration part of education, taking the position of principal of Pelham High School, where today he leads the faculty through their daily responsibilities.
The Hardens love to take part in fitness as a family. Clark has always had a passion for staying fit, which he says really started in high school, where he played football, and continued into adulthood. He played a lot of basketball until an ankle injury forced him to hang up his high tops. He then took up weight lifting and running, which he continues to this day with his sons and wife.
Speaking of his better half, Sam shares her husband’s love for fitness, and fortunately their schedules as educators allow them to work out together. The couple is currently doing CrossFit.
Their sons have followed the lead of their parents down the road of fitness. JayCee played football at Colquitt County, where he was a starting quarterback for the Packers. He was rewarded for his solid performance on the football field with a scholarship to attend Valdosta State University.
His younger brother is an eighth-grader who he plays football, basketball, and baseball. While Cam may be the “little brother,” he’s not little by any means.
“Cam is tall and very broad, what a lot of people call ‘big-boned,'” his mother said.
He also has been working out with his dad, who is starting to notice some physical changes.
“He (Cam) has really transformed his body,” Clark said.
In addition to his weekday responsibilities as the principal of Pelham High School, Clark is also pastor of Brighton Road Baptist Church in Tifton. This is his first full-time pastor position, although he has been a fill-in pastor at many different churches over the past 20-plus years. Sam said her husband has been called on for a long time to pastor a church.
“He finally answered that calling,” she said.
Clark said it’s sometimes a surreal feeling.
“I sometimes still wonder why God chose me to become a pastor,” Clark said.
He is in his fifth year at Brighton Road Baptist Church.
“I needed Brighton Road Baptist Church as much as they needed me,” he said.
He said that the disciplines of faith and fitness “have been a parallel journey.”
“I have to be disciplined to pray every day,” he said. “I have to be disciplined to eat the right things each day.”
And so the journey for fulfillment continues for Dr. Clark Harden with those things that are most important with faith, fitness, and, of course, family leading the way.
Written by: Phil Jones | Photography by: Eric Vinson