Wesley Kanne was born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 23, 1944. He was the only child of Venetta and Benjamin Kanne. Clark's father's family was Jewish; his paternal great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Belarus in response to the Pale of Settlement and anti-Semitic violence from Russian pogroms. His mother was a Methodist. Benlamin Kanne was a prosecutor, a veteran of World War I, and a Democratic politician. Venetta was a homemaker. After Wesley’s father died when Wesley was three years old, he and his mother moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), Arkansas. She worked at a local bank and eventually bought a house with her earnings and her deceased husband’s military service benefits. In 1954, when Wesley was nine, Venetta Kanne married Victor Clark. Victor Clark adopted Wesley, and his name was changed to Wesley Kanne Clark.