Thomas D. Clark, AHA's Oldest Member, Passes Away
Flags flew at half-mast over Kentucky's Capitol in honor of historian and long-standing AHA member, Thomas Dionysius Clark, who died on June 28 at the age of 101, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Clark, who was the Historian Laureate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, was recently honored by the AHA (at its 118th annual meeting held in January 2004 in Washington, D.C.) by the conferral of the Association's Award for Scholarly Distinction. The award citation read by AHA president Jonathan Spence declared:
"Born before the Wright Brothers took their first flight, Thomas D. Clark has seen vast changes occur in American life. In the area of history, he has deeply influenced many of those changes himself, particularly in the fields of southern and frontier history. His first monograph appeared in 1933; a university press published his most recent book in 2002. In between those dates, Tom Clark has written or edited more than 30 additional works, virtually all of them outstanding examples of his view that historians must tell an engaging, important, and readable story, accessible to all. His writing and research skills emerged early, for he was among the first and best of a new historical generation who chronicled the changing cultural, economic, and political aspects of the South. Whether in specialized works such as Pills, Petticoats, and Plows: The Southern Country Store (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1944) and The Southern Country Editor (The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1948), or broader surveys, including The Emerging South (Oxford Univ. Press, 1961), The South Since Appomattox: A Century of Regional Change (Oxford Univ. Press, 1967), and The Greening of the South: The Recovery of Land and Forest (Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1984), his prose has, for decades, shaped critical thinking about that region. Similarly, he has published seminal studies of the early frontier, such as The Rampaging Frontier: Manners and Humors of Pioneer Days in the South and Middle West (The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1939) and Frontier America: The Story of the Westward Movement (Scribner, 1959). During those years, Clark also worked to strengthen his chosen profession, serving as president of the Southern Historical Association, Phi Alpha Theta, and the Organization of American Historians (OAH), and as editor of the Journal of Southern History and executive editor of the OAH in the 1950s. In addition, long before there was common usage of the term "public history," Clark focused his efforts on that field as well, and he proved to be a pivotal figure in the creation of numerous research and publishing institutions in Kentucky. That work caused the state legislature to name him the commonwealth's first, and only, Historian Laureate for Life. Since his supposed retirement at age 65, Clark has written or edited some 20 books, while still speaking to groups across America as he takes Clio's message to new listeners. He remains an example to us all for his productive longevity. But more than that, he stands as a model historian, leader, advocate, teacher, and person. Tom Clark continues to remind us what historians should be, and what they should do."
Clark, who was born on July 14, 1903, attended his first AHA meeting in 1928, and kept up a life-long connection with the Association. He was also involved with the Organization of American Historians of which he was president in 195657.
Indefatigably industrious almost to the last, Thomas Clark continued to lecture and write. His unfulfilled desire was to write (on his trusty old Remington), he told University of Kentucky history professor David Hamilton (in an interview published in the February 2004 issue of Perspectives), on the changes in the South since Brown v. Board of Education, and to revisit his own classic work, The History of Kentucky.
July 6, 2005
© American Historical AssociationLast Updated: February 22, 2008 1:28 PM