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Walter Eli Clark

Charleston Daily Mail
February 5, 1950


Walter E. Clark, 81, Publisher, Succumbs

Daily Mail Owner Dies in Hospital Two Hours Following Heart Attack

Walter Eli Clark, owner and editor of The Charleston Daily Mail, died Saturday afternoon in a Charleston hospital, two hours after suffering a heart attack at his home, 1598 Virginia St., East. He was 81 years old on Jan. 7.

While Mr. Clark had suffered recurring heart attacks in recent years, he had been in comparative good health recently and his death came unexpectedly. He was admitted to the hospital at 11:30 a.m. Death followed at 1:27 p.m.

Up until the day before his death, Mr. Clark had taken an active role in the publication of the newspaper and conduct of the company, The Charleston Mail Association, of which he was president. For months he had been at his offices adjoining the news rooms on the second floor at least two hours each day, remaining longer on frequent occasions. He made his last visit to the offices shortly before noon Friday.

While he had confined most of his writing in recent years to his widely-ready page one editorial column, “At This Hour,” he did occasionally submit a news story to the editors, “just to keep in touch with the news,” as he often said. Starting his newspaper career as a correspondent, “writing” remained his first love in the newspaper field throughout his life.

Mr. Clark was one of the founders of the Charleston Rose Society and for years he had striven to make Charleston known as the Rose City of the East. Ironically, the last story he wrote for the news columns concerned plans of the society for the annual Charleston rose show staged here each spring.

Funeral services will be Monday at 4 p.m. at the Kanawha Presbyterian church with the pastor, Rev. Bernard E. Vanderbeek officiating. Burial will be in Mountain View cemetery. The body is at the Simpson Funeral home.

Active pallbearers will be Jack Maurice, Vint Jennings, Dick Hudson, J. B. Martin, Howard Wolfe, Robert Thompson, Clyde Jenkins, Southall Burke, Arthur McQueen and Frank Polk, all employees of the Daily Mail.

A Newspaper for the People

When Mr. Clark came to Charleston April 6, 1914, and became proprietor of the Charleston Mail (the name later was changed to The Charleston Daily Mail) it was a small business compared to its size today. But from the first day of the new ownership, the business began to grow.

Readers liked the straightforward manner in which Mr. Clark had pledged that the newspaper would be operated for the good of the whole people; that no individual, not even the owner, would control it. Every day there were new readers and each day there was an improvement in the product.

Thus the present Daily Mail began to exert its influence upon the community. While the new owner announced that it would be a Republican paper, he also stated that it stood first for good government. Through the years, the Daily Mail has been an independent Republican paper, supporting candidates of that party when it thought that they deserved support, and repudiating them when it believed that it was serving the interests of better government.

Mr. Clark began early a campaign to make Charleston the “Rose City of the East.” Thousands of persons responded by planting rose bushes, and amateur rose growers later organized the Charleston Rose Society of which Mr. Clark was the first president. Mr. Clark never lost interest in roses and each year as honorary president of the society, assisted in conducting its annual rose show. The success of the rose movement in Charleston won him wide recognition. He was elected president of the National Rose Society and served in 1928 and 1929.

He was always intensely interested in the success of charity and welfare work. An ardent believer in the Community Fund, he was one of its founders in Charleston and a principal backer. He also was active for years in Boy Scout work and served as president of the Kanawha Boy Scout Council.

Mr. Clark brought to Charleston a background of experience gained as a newspaper reporter, as a gold prospector in Alaska and later as governor of Alaska during the administration of President Taft. All newspaper men recognized his writing ability by admiring his adeptness in choice of words.

Mr. Clark never sought political office or gain. His appointment as governor of Alaska came unsolicited. After becoming a resident of Charleston, he turned down numerous opportunities to become a candidate; his only ambition was to “publish a good newspaper,” He consistently emphasized that nothing was to interfere with the unprejudiced conduct of his newspaper.

Mr. Clark attended the public schools at Ashford, Conn., his birthplace. He was born Jan. 7, 1869, being the eldest son of Oren Andrus Clark and Emily Janet (Jones) Clark. After being graduated from the Connecticut State Normal school in 1887, he taught school for one year at Waterville, Conn., and at 19 became principal of the grade schools at Manchester. He continued his education at Williston Academy and was graduated from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn., in 1895 with the degree of Ph. B.

Mr. Clark was called back to Wesleyan on June 25, 1945, to receive on the 50th anniversary of his class the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters. The degree was conferred by Victor L. Butterfield, president of the university.

President Butterfield spoke a particularly apt word in his remarks upon conferring the degree when he said: “Mr. Clark has spent 50 years in using his pen in service of his community, his state and his country. His editorials in his Charleston Daily Mail have been written with striking courage and independence.”

Mr. Clark’s first newspaper position was as reporter on the Hartford, (Conn.) Post with which he remained only a short time before going to Washington, D. C., as telegraph editor of the Washington Times and capitol correspondent of the New York Commercial Advertiser. He joined the Washington bureau of the New York Sun in 1897. There he remained for 12 years except for two leaves of absence in 1900 and 1906 when he visited Alaska. Mr. Clark was proud of being one of the “sour-doughs” who helped open Alaska for the United States. He engaged in prospecting and gold mining at Nome and in 1903 he visited all parts of the territory of Alaska. His personal knowledge of conditions there enabled him to produce for the New York Commercial Advertiser and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a large illustrated newspaper section exploiting the mining, fishing and other industries of Alaska.

While a correspondent in Washington Mr. Clark became intimate with many notables, including President Theodore Roosevelt and Sen. Philander C. Knox of Pennsylvania.

It was his experiences in Alaska that attracted the attention of President Taft, who at the time was seeking a governor for the territory. Without any solicitation from Mr. Clark or his friends, Mr. Taft asked him to take the position so that he could help solve certain difficulties which the administration had encountered. The appointment came Oct. 1, 1909, and he served until May 21, 1913. His letter of resignation had been sent to President Wilson several months before, but he was asked to remain in office during the session of the territory’s legislature.

When Mr. Clark came to Charleston, he announced that the city was to be his permanent home; that he had become an adopted West Virginian by choice and thereafter his whole interest would be in bettering conditions in the state, county and city.

Mr. Clark’s first marriage was on June 15, 1898, to Lucy Harrison Norvell of Washington, D. C., and Lynchburg, Va. She died in 1928. On Aug. 13, 1929, he married Mrs. Juliet Staunton Clay of Charleston. They have one daughter, Juliet Staunton Clark.

Mr. Clark was a member of Kanawha Presbyterian church, the Edgewood and Kanawha Country Clubs in Charleston and the Metropolitan and Chevy Chase clubs of Washington, D. C.


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