Charles B. Clark Sr., 90, teacher, lacrosse coach

December 14, 2003|By Heather Dewar | Heather Dewar,SUN STAFF

Charles B. Clark Sr., a historian, author and college professor with a lifelong devotion to the sport of lacrosse, died Thursday at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 90.

Dr. Clark was born in Ellicott City and spent the last 20 years of his life there after an academic, military and sporting career that took him from the Eastern Shore to the South Pacific and back. He was chairman of the history departments at Washington College and at the former Salisbury State College, and he coached winning lacrosse teams at both schools. He is in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

He was wounded as a Marine intelligence officer in the South Pacific during World War II, and he served in the reserves as a lieutenant colonel.

Friends said his successes sprang from an intense work ethic and a devotion to fairness, learned as a child on a Howard County farm and honed in the Marines.

"He ran the lacrosse team like it was Parris Island," said William A. Barnett, an Annapolis optometrist who was one of Dr. Clark's students and players at Washington College in the early 1950s. "I mean, he ran us to death."

Mr. Barnett remembered a Marine captain who came to Washington College to recruit men at the start of the Korean War. The captain watched one of Dr. Clark's grueling lacrosse practices, then marched across the field, snapped a salute, and said, "Colonel Clark, I'll take every one of your damn men."

Mr. Barnett said he and several other players on that team did end up joining the military.

Dr. Clark was an equally serious historian. He was the author of a two-volume history of the Eastern Shore, a political history of Maryland during the Civil War and an account of Iowa soldiers' Civil War experiences.

He was the seventh of 11 children. "I was a strong country kid, raised on a farm, with God-given quick reflexes," he wrote in 1987.

He enrolled at Washington College in 1930 and played on its lacrosse team. After graduating, he taught at several Maryland high schools and earned a master's degree from Duke University and a doctorate from the University of North Carolina.

He was teaching history and political science at the University of Georgia when World War II broke out. He enlisted in the Marines as a private, was trained as an officer and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He was sent to the South Pacific, where he served as an intelligence officer to Marine aviation units, including the famed "Black Sheep Squadron."

He fought in the Northern Solomon Islands and the Philippines, and received four battle stars. "He had shrapnel wounds all across his stomach, and he never would talk about them," said his wife, Becky Clark.

He was discharged as a captain and returned to Washington College, where he taught history and political science for 10 years, and served as a department chairman. He founded the school's lacrosse team and quickly made it one of the top-ranked teams in the country, producing several All-American players.

He took a hiatus from his favorite sport while teaching at Upper Iowa University in Fayette from 1960 to 1978. He met his future wife, a young widow with two small children, over lunch with a mutual friend.

The couple married in 1967, and Dr. Clark adopted her children. Their blended family included his two children from a previous marriage to Adelaide Clark, which ended in divorce.

In 1978, Dr. Clark returned to Maryland to teach history and coach lacrosse at what is now Salisbury University. In 1982, he retired to Ellicott City.

He represented lacrosse on the U.S. Olympic Committee in the 1950s. He was a former president of the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association and a former board member of the U.S. Lacrosse Foundation.

"Even at age 85, he'd come up to you and give you a handshake like you'd never forget," said Steven B. Stenersen, the foundation's executive director. "You just knew he was a genuine guy."

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. John's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Adelaide Schoenhut of Ellicott City and Mary Blount of Coralville, Iowa; two sons, Charles Clark Jr. of Morgan Hill, Calif., and Paul Clark of Salisbury; three sisters, Mary Clark of Columbia, Desiree Clark of New York and Betsey Caldwell of New Canaan, Conn.; and eight grandchildren.

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