’Tis a countenance whose spell
Sheds balm over mead and dell.
Anonymous verse in Tom Clark’s
Bryan Street High School yearbook, 1917
THE AFFECTION MY FAMILY FELT FOR TEXAS, especially during the years that followed our move east in 1937, was unstated but pervasive. It exhibited itself in small ways, such as my surprise at the age of eight or nine at learning that a favorite song, “The Eyes of Texas,” was known to most people as “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” My romantic perception of the state was based on secondhand knowledge rather than actual experience, for I was only four years old when my father, Tom Clark, left his private law practice in Dallas for a job in Washington, D.C., with the federal government. My brother, Ramsey, dubbed me the family’s Yankee, a term that made me instinctively defensive without knowing exactly why.
I sensed a disadvantage at being somewhat less a Texan than other family members. Being a Texan was special. I felt a surge of pride when I responded “Texas” to the familiar question “And where are you from?”— never doubting that everyone shared my lofty esteem of the state. “Mimi looks like a Texan,” my father would declare, and I would beam, understanding the significance of the compliment. Looking back, I realize my eastern friends could not have fully appreciated the tribute when my father told them they were “pretty enough to be a Texan.”
Tom Clark was a Texan. Even his physical appearance, aided by the Stetson hats and jaunty bow ties he loved to wear, fit the popular image of how a Texan should look. The six-foot frame, lean for most of his life, was topped by a full, thick head of hair that was even more striking in his