JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Friends and colleagues are praising Robert Clark for overcoming barriers 50 years ago to become Mississippi's first black legislator since Reconstruction.

The Holmes County Democrat won a seat in the state House in 1967.

The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 chipped away at segregationist practices that kept black Mississippi residents from voting. Clark was ostracized by white colleagues when he took office, but he gained a leadership role after more than a decade. As chairman of the House Education Committee, he helped push the Education Reform Act of 1982 into law.

Clark's colleagues elected him to the second-highest House leadership post, speaker pro tempore, in 1992. He retired in 2004.

Clark spoke to about 330 people Wednesday at a ceremony honoring him.