Former state Sen. Clark produces `the story of my life'

Soldier, lawmaker, farmer writes his memoirs

July 08, 1999|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

It's easy to mistake James Clark Jr., the 80-year-old former state senator and scion of one of Howard County's oldest families, as just another gentleman farmer who spends his days praying for rain.

As July's hot, bitter wind and the blazing sun continue to beat down on the thirsty and tender crops planted on Clark's 548-acre Ellicott City farm, he manages to grab a couple of hours each day to promote his memoirs, titled "Jim Clark: Soldier, Farmer, Legislator," published by Baltimore's Gateway Press.

After 28 years as a statesman in Annapolis, Clark's place as a part of the county's history is assured. And so is his book's, which will take its place on the shelves of each of Howard County's libraries.

"I have no regrets about my life," Clark said yesterday during a short dedication ceremony at the Miller branch library on Frederick Road. "Well, I've had a few, but I've been very fortunate to do what I wanted to do."

And Clark has done a lot over the course of his life, though the only long period of time spent away from Howard County was during his four-year stint in Europe as a glider pilot for the Army during World War II.

Clark isn't the first to commit his family's stories to paper. His mother, grandmother and great-great-grandmother produced lively memoirs about the Clarks, who came to America from Scotland in 1797 to settle in Anne Arundel and Howard counties.

Getting the book finished took more than a year, with Clark writing his memories longhand on a yellow legal pad and his daughter, Martha Clark Crist, typing the passages into her computer.

Clark's wife of 53 years, Lillian, proofread each passage. A limited run of about 1,000 copies was printed.

"Writing a book was certainly harder than I expected," Clark says good-naturedly. "You have to kind of get psyched up for this kind of work. Otherwise, it can really drag. You have to go over and over and over it, and there's always something to fix.

"It's not much of a book," he says, "but it's the story of my life, and it'll be good for the grandchildren when I'm not here."

Clark writes lovingly of his ancestors and family, growing up and settling in rural Howard County, his long and illustrious career as a statesman -- he retired in 1986 -- and his love of farming.

There are long passages taken from Clark's journal written during World War II and his thoughts on his ground-breaking legislation passed in Annapolis concerning his two great loves: agriculture and the environment.

Carole Conors, president of the Howard County League of Women Voters and an Ellicott City resident, says she is looking forward to reading the ex-senator's memoirs.

"I'm sort of nostalgic about him," Conors says after the library ceremony. "I think he made a quiet kind of contribution in all his years in the state legislature and in the county. He was never bombastic, and he was always a gentleman in his public approach."

Of all his titles, Clark says he treasures the simplest one the most: farmer.

"Farming came easiest to me, and my first love is agriculture," he says. "It's tough making a living as a farmer because you've got to be good and you've got to be lucky, both. You can never control the weather or the prices."

James Clark Jr. will sign copies of his book from noon until 2 p.m. July 20 at Farm and Home Service Inc., 9064 Frederick Road, Ellicott City. Copies of the book, which cost $21, are on sale at Ellicott's Country Store, 8180 Main St., Ellicott City. Information: 410- 465-4482.

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