Lionel Clarke was born in 1857 in Guelph, Ontario the son of a doctor. He was educated at Trinity College and the University of Edinburgh. In 1891 he married Anne Small. Clarke was a businessman in Palmerston before entering the grain trade in Toronto. He became the Chairman of Canadian Malting Company, President of the Board of Grain Supervisors, Chairman of the Toronto Harbour Commission, and a member of the Niagara Falls Park Commission. Clarke was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in 1919 and was a champion for public education and literacy. He died in Office in 1921.