Harry E. Clark Jr., 89, judge who served on Circuit Court

April 12, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Harry E. Clark Jr., a retired Talbot County Circuit Court judge and World War II veteran, died from complications of pneumonia Tuesday at Rayland Acres, a nursing facility in Trappe. The Easton resident was 89.

"He was an extremely meticulous, conscientious and deliberate jurist who did very careful work. He worked long and hard throughout his career," said Talbot County Circuit Judge William S. Horne.

"He came along at the end of an era when there was no Court of Special Appeals, and Circuit Court judges were the last resort and the law east of the bay in Talbot County. He ran a taut ship and expected attorneys to be prepared," he said.

Judge Clark was born and reared in Easton, where his father, Harry E. Clark Sr., a businessman who owned a Ford dealership, was responsible for bringing the first Model T's and Model A's to the Eastern Shore by ferry, family members said.

After graduating from Staunton Military Academy in 1931, he attended the University of Virginia, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1935 and his law degree in 1938.

Upon his admission to the Maryland Bar in 1938, he entered private law practice in Easton in association with the late Col. Edward T. Miller.

This association ended shortly after the outbreak of World War II, when Col. Miller went on active duty with the Army, and Mr. Clark became a commissioned officer in the Navy.

During his tour of duty, he commanded Navy minesweepers in the North Atlantic, the Pacific and the East China Sea.

He participated in the largest naval minesweeping operation in the history of mine warfare off the west coast of Okinawa.

After being discharged in 1946, he returned to Easton, where he ran for and was elected state's attorney for Talbot County, a position he held from 1947 to 1953, after which he returned to private practice.

In 1966, he was appointed by Gov. J. Millard Tawes as an associate judge of the Second Judicial Circuit of Maryland, comprising Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne's, Caroline and Talbot counties.

In 1969, he was elected to this same position for a 15-year term. At his 1983 retirement, he was the fourth-most-senior judge in Maryland.

"He was a very methodical, quiet-spoken, articulate and persuasive individual. He had an excellent legal mind and knew the law inside and out because he had been a prosecuting and defense attorney before becoming a judge," said former Circuit Judge John C. North II, who succeeded Judge Clark at his retirement.

"He was very analytical and never shot from the hip. He thought about things, and this is what made him a very successful judge," said Thomas E. Hill, a Legg Mason financial adviser and longtime friend. "He had a wonderful smile and an effusive personality. He was plain-speaking yet very dignified."

Except for his college years and wartime service, Judge Clark called Talbot County home.

"Harry was a Talbot County boy who was able to realize his dream of being able to make a living and stay where he had been born and raised. He had the opportunity to live his whole life here and that was a blessing," Mr. Hill added.

Prominent in civic and business affairs, Judge Clark was a founder of the Lions Club of Easton. He became its charter president and served in that position until called to duty during World War II.

He was one of the founders and vice president in the late 1960s of Bethany House, a home for emotionally disturbed boys, which was located near Cordova.

Judge Clark also was a founder of the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Easton and became its vice president and attorney until its merger with Loyola Federal Savings and Loan Association. He also had served on the board of directors of Memorial Hospital at Easton for 12 years.

He was a member of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Cub, Tred Avon Yacht Club, Talbot Country Club and American Legion Talbot Post 70.

"He was also a member of the Romeos, which stands for Retired Old Men Eating Out. He was just a very amiable guy and a marvelous conversationalist," said Horatio W. "Harry" Turner II, a longtime friend and retired Loyola Federal Savings and Loan banker.

Judge Clark was an accomplished poker player and an avid golfer.

He was married for 56 years to the former Ellen Chaffinch, who died in 1997.

He was a communicant of Christ Episcopal Church in Easton, where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow.

He is survived by a son, H. Stevens Clark of Cordova; a daughter, Anne C. Munson of Aptos, Calif.; and a granddaughter.

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