Joe Clark, the New Jersey high school principal that became the inspiration for the classic film Lean On Me, has died at age 82.

Clark died Tuesday after a lengthy illness. He served as the principal of Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey from 1983 to 1989. In the film, Clark was played by Morgan Freeman.

Lean on Me was created in 1989 and made $31 million at the box office and won the award for outstanding motion picture at the 1989  NAACP Image Awards.

According to Variety, Clark’s career began as a grade school teacher, before ascending to grammar school principal and eventually taking over Eastside High. During his time as principal, Clark expelled 300 students in one day for fighting, vandalism, abusing teachers and drug possession, in effort to turn the school around.

Clark was survived by his three children and three great grandchildren.