Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark: A Life of Service

By Mimi Clark Gronlund | Go to book overview
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Some Personal Observations

The most unforgettable character I ever met.

Mary Ramsey Clark

TOM CLARK WAS A RARE COMBINATION: a devoted family man, a high achiever, a lifelong workaholic, and a character! He never lost the “kid” within him and possessed a sense of humor that was sometimes subtle, sometimes silly, and often self-effacing. His friend Rabbi Gershenfeld dubbed him “the Happy Heart.” Mother called him “the most unforgettable character I ever met,” borrowing the term from the popular Reader’s Digest column of the same name. To his children and grandchildren, who adored him, he was a lot of fun!

He compartmentalized his personal and professional lives, rarely talking about work at home. No matter how busy he was, he gave us his total attention when we were together, and loved to plan trips to the beach or the mountains, fishing or hunting excursions, and, in his later years, shopping sprees with “his girls.” During the war years, when gasoline rationing prohibited automobile trips, the four of us would often play dominoes on Sunday afternoons and listen to one of our favorite radio programs, such as The Shadow. My father would entertain us by mimicking the Shadow’s sinister laugh. He was frequently our Sunday-morning breakfast cook— silver-dollar-sized hotcakes were his specialty. If we took too long eating, he would get up from the table and start washing dishes while the rest of us finished. Claiming to be “the world’s greatest dishwasher,” he attacked burned spots on pans with the same gusto that he brought to everything; no spot remained by the time he was through.

It was in California that I, as a little girl, wondered whether my father might have magical powers. Not that I believed, when he said, “Let me put my magic on it,” as he prepared to fix a broken toy or repair a house


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