Friday, July 14, 2017

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: July 14, 1903 – Thomas D. Clark

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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Thomas D. Clark, historian, was born in Louisville, Mississippi, on July 14, 1903, to John Collinsworth and Sallie (Bennett) Clark. His parents were of pioneer families who had moved from South Carolina into Choctaw Indian lands that later became cotton country. In 1925 Clark entered the University of Mississippi, intending to study law. Instead, under the influence of historian Charles Sackett Sydnor, he turned to the study of history. Clark graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1928. He received his master's degree from the University of Kentucky in 1929 and his doctorate from Duke University in 1932. Duke professor William K. Boyd, a first-rate collector, had a profound influence on Clark's research skills. Clark said of Boyd that he had "both a genuine sense of the value of the original records, and the energy and imagination to collect them." These words apply equally well to Clark himself.

Clark began his teaching career at Memphis State University in 1930. In 1931 he moved to the University of Kentucky , which was then lacking in the quality of faculty and research that characterize first-rate institutions. University of Kentucky president Frank L. McVey (1917-40), who had high hopes for the school, personally hired Clark. The university was Clark's base for thirty-seven years, while at various times he taught at Harvard, Duke, North Carolina, Tennessee, Rochester, Chicago, Wyoming, Wisconsin, the Claremont Graduate School, Kent State, Stanford, Indiana, and at the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies in Austria. He lectured overseas for the Department of State, at Oxford University, and in Greece, India, and Yugoslavia.

At the University of Kentucky, Clark simultaneously taught fifteen-hour schedules and started the university library's Special Collections. He acquired a serial set of U.S. government documents from Centre College in Danville and the Kentucky State Library in Frankfort and a set of state documents for the law school. He also brought private collections to the university. For several years Clark taught extension courses, and quickly established himself as a popular lecturer, known for the humor and anecdotes with which he made his points. Clark became chairman of the UK's history department in 1942, and at the end of World War II he began to piece together a distinguished collection of faculty. He was in the vanguard of the movement that established the University of Kentucky Press in 1943 and the University Press of Kentucky in 1968.

Clark's own series of publications began in 1933 with The Beginning of the L&N. He followed with A Pioneer Southern Railroad (1936), A History of Kentucky (1937), The Rampaging Frontier (1939), and Pills, Petticoats and Plows (1944). In the last book, one of his most popular, Clark portrays the country store not as a homey institution but as a mirror of the basic images of the South. His next works on the region, The Rural Press and the New South (1948) and The Southern Country Editor (1948), reflect not only his affection for and sense of the South but also his tough-minded ability to look critically at his native land. His works, however, also reveal a universality that has made him not a regional specialist but an American historian of the first rank. As well as writing, Clark served as managing editor of the Journal of Southern History for four years and chief editor of two multi-volume publications, a sixteen-year undertaking: Travels in the Old South and Travels in the New South.

In 1965 Clark's tenure as chairman of UK's history department ended. He was then Hallam Professor until 1968, when he retired. While teaching for a time at Indiana University, he wrote a multivolume history of that university and served as executive secretary of the Organization of American Historians. At seventy years of age, Clark left Indiana University in 1973 as Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus. He then taught at Eastern Kentucky University , at the University of Wisconsin as a visiting professor, and at Winthrop College in Rock Hill, South Carolina, as adjunct professor. His writing continued: Indiana University in Mid-Passage (1973), South Carolina, the Grand Tour (1973), The Great American Frontier (1975), Off At Sunrise: The Overland Journal of Charles Grass Gray (1976), Indiana University: The Realization (1976), Agrarian Kentucky: That Far-Off Land (1979), A History of Laurel County (1989), and Footloose in Jacksonian America (1990). Clark was the primary mover behind the founding of a state archives.

Clark's honors include a Guggenheim fellowship, a merit award from the Association of State and Local History, an Indiana author's award (1971), and eight honorary degrees. He lived in Lexington with his wife, the former Martha Elizabeth Turner, whom he married in 1933; they have two children, Thomas Bennett and Ruth Elizabeth. Clark died on June 28, 2005.

H. LEW WALLACE, Entry Author
Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Kleber, J., Clark, T., & University Press of Kentucky. (2003). Thomas D. Clark of Kentucky : An uncommon life in the commonwealth. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky.E175.5.C56 T47 2003, Young Library - 4th Floor

Clark, T. (2006). My century in history : Memoirs. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
E175.5.C56 A3 2006, Young Library - 4th Floor

Clark, T. (1937). A history of Kentucky (Prentice-Hall history series, C. Wittke ... editor). New York: Prentice-Hall.
F451 .C63 1937, Special Collections Research Center - Rare

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