Charleston Daily Mail
Walter Eli Clark
February 5, 1950
Walter Eli Clark
It was one of Walter Clark’s firm commands, repeated over the years, that when he died his newspaper was to give his death only the briefest and most essential mention. “A few words at the top of the editorial column,” he would say, “and that is all.” That would have been in the tradition of Dana and the Sun, for which he once worked. It would have been in keeping, too, with this personal philosophy of a newspaper – that the institution is greater than the man who created it.
It is one measure of the man that those who knew him and worked for him now break that stern commandment, confident that he would have granted them his final indulgence. It would be an injustice – to let him go without a work of the appreciation and esteem he so richly deserved.
He was, in a saying once familiar, a man of parts – teacher, gold prospector, reporter, public official, editor and publisher. These, the index cards to his long career, are developed at greater length in his obituary. To his old friends they cannot tell of what he was and grew to be or why he was loved and honored quite apart from his accomplishments.
Although he had lived in West Virginia for nearly 40 years, something of his New England birth and heritage lingered in the man. There was a gentlemanly reticence, often mistaken for austerity, a strong disinclination to trade upon his personality, often mistaken for a lack of warmth and personal feelings. These were merely the shell of his life. As acquaintance broadened into friendship, a deeper insight became possible. There was a keen wit there, a student’s understanding of history, a joy in companionship, and above all his graces and talents, a deep and abiding concern for what he felt to be right and proper. If one word can suffice to characterize him it is integrity – both personal in his life and publicly in his conduct of a newspaper.
That word was implicit in his declaration when he took over this newspaper in 1914: “Under the new ownership this newspaper will serve no interests except the interests of the whole people – the legitimate concern of those who believe, as we do, that a law-abiding community is the only community worth living in, and that there is no true democracy without equality under the law.
The Mail will be a Republican newspaper – mighty positively so – but not a factional opponent; and with no disposition to quarrel, but only to protect occasionally with those excellent citizens who happen to belong to some other party. It will be a political or personal organ of no individual – not even the owner. But it will strive for accuracy in reporting the news, and it will espouse and practice most incessantly the doctrine of fair play.”
It was an exacting credo, and Mr. Clark did not deviate from it. The same staunch purpose which led him into the publishing business 36 years ago sustained him throughout his life. He fought many a hard campaign, and he did not win them all; but he did not relax in his determination.
His life was a rare life, a long and a useful one, marked by a quality and a humanity which lend its closing a special sadness. The world is not so filled with good and just men that it can suffer the departure of another without a pang of deep sorrow and a sense of great loss.
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