Nathaniel Clay Jr., the former longtime superintendent of the Hempstead school district, died Monday on his way to Winthrop-University Hospital after an apparent heart attack at his home in Westbury. He was 70.

Clay had headed the district from 1995 to 2008.

Clay had his ups and downs with the school board near the end of his tenure, when, between October 2004 and July 2005, he twice left the district only to return and finally retire in 2008.

In March 1995, he was selected from a bevy of applicants to lead the district, leaving schools in Indiana.

One of the highlights of his tenure in Hempstead was in 1995, when he helped get literacy expert Carol Rasco to visit his district and neighboring Roosevelt's.

Rasco was the chief domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and a member of the Department of Education's National Education Goals Panel. She was visiting programs, such as STAR and COMET, for at-risk students at the schools. Clay said then that she supported the programs, and he called her "a friend in Washington."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Longtime Hempstead school board member and current board President Betty Cross said: "Nate was one man who really cared about our children and getting them off to college. At the same time, he strongly pushed early childhood education."

Cross was instrumental in recruiting Clay from Indiana.

Visitation will be 2 to 4 p.m. today at Donohue-Cecere Funeral Home in Westbury. A service will follow there at 7 p.m.

Cross said she would help Clay's family, here from around the country, hold a memorial service at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Faith Baptist Church in Hempstead.

Clay is survived by his former wife of 20 years, Margaret Stockard of Augusta, Ga.; daughters Victoria Clay Wright of Atlanta and Lezlie Banks of Augusta; and a brother, Doron Manice of Tacoma, Wash. He also is survived by his longtime partner, Margarita Wareham of Westbury.