Mary Nell Clay, longtime educator and resident of Arkadelphia passed into the Lord’s embrace on Friday, October 13, 2017 at her home in Arkadelphia. She was born on April 24, 1951 in Hope, Arkansas to Clarence Blake and Ladell Brewer. Mary Nell accepted Christ at a tender age and by the time she was in the fifth grade, she knew she wanted to become a teacher. She was a sweet and fun loving kid who often tutored her younger cousin and friends throughout her school years. She loved to “play teacher”. She was a 1969 graduate of Yerger High School in Hope, Arkansas. She attended Henderson State University where she earned a degree in elementary and special education. Receiving her degree in December 1973, she went to work immediately as the special education teacher at Prescott High School. She stayed there one semester before accepting a job as fifth grade and special education teacher in Arkadelphia from August 1974 until May 1983. She returned yet again to Henderson State University to earn her master’s degree in elementary administration in 1977. After spending 9 years as a fifth grade teacher she was hired as the district’s special education supervisor in 1983. After 16 years as special education supervisor, she applied for the principal’s position at Central Primary School where, coincidentally, she had done her student teaching while attending Henderson State University. In June of 1999 Mary Nell started her 27th year in education with a new job as the principal of Central Primary School. She made history in becoming Arkadelphia’s first African-American female school principal. She retired in 2008 after 34 years of service to the Arkadelphia Public School District. She was a dedicated and faithful member of Greater Pleasant Hill Baptist Church where she was an active Sunday school member, member of the WMU, a lead teacher for new member’s orientation, new member intake clerk, and an active bible study member. Her thirst for knowledge and to live a Christ-like life led her to take and complete several Christian education discipleship training courses; she was a stalwart vacation bible school supporter and a strong steward. As a college student she was active in the choir. Mary Nell served as member of the personnel policy committee and as the district coordinator for Section 504. She was a member of several associations and committees including: Arkansas State Special Education Advisory Committee, the Arkansas Association of Elementary School Principals, the Arkansas Educational Administrators Association, the Clark County Retired Teachers Association and Arkansas Association of Special Education Administrators where she had been recognized as administrator of the year. She was a graduate of the Instructional Leadership Program for Schools of the 21st Century at Yale University. In her community she served as the volunteer coordinator and was a generous financial supporter of the Community Family Enrichment Center. She was a member of the NAACP and Sunshine Service Club. She is survived by her mother, Ladell Harris of Arkadelphia; her daughter, Jamee’ Clay of Arkadelphia; one sister, Betty (Marshall) Fortson of Houston, TX; Shiyah Browning Anderson whom she loved as a granddaughter; brothers, Wendall D. Blake, Jerry L. Blake, Kenneth D. Blake and Lawrence L. Blake; paternal aunt and uncle; a host of cousins and caravan of friends. In Lieu of Flowers, please donate to the Mary Nell Clay Memorial Account at Southern Bancorp. Funds will go towards two things Mary Nell was passionate about: helping kids and education.