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Bill Thayer

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The following text is reproduced from (the report of the) Seventeenth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 10th, 1886.

 p50  James Clark
No. 574. Class of 1829.
Died, September 9, 1885, at Georgetown, D. C., aged 76.

The following tribute to the late Father James Clark, S. J., is taken from the Catholic Mirror:

 p51  "Father Clark was in his day one of the pillars of Georgetown College. A convert to the church, he had none of the ultra zeal of the convert, but left self behind when he received holy orders. He was of an old Pennsylvania revolutionary family, and went through West Point with distinguished honor. He was of the class of 1829, and had many classmates who have become celebrated. James Clark was every inch a soldier by nature and thing. Of an iron frame, and with an eye and demeanor which would have commended him to Napoleon as the very man to lead a forlorn hope, young Clark had brilliant prospects in the army. He was an engineer of the first rank, and his fame as a mathematician was not confined to America. He never forgot his West Point training, and his voice, eye and step were always those of the commander. He chose the militant order of the church and devoted himself, as a soldier of the cross, to the salvation of souls with that same inflexible sense of duty with which Breboeuf,º the apostle of the Hurons, was animated.

Father Clark was first a seminarian at Mt. St. Mary's College. Becoming a Jesuit in 1844, he served consecutively as First Prefect, Professor of Mathematics, and Treasurer of Georgetown College, President of Holy Cross College, Massachusetts, and President of Gonzaga College, Washington. Returning, in old age, to his beloved Georgetown, he was stricken with paralysis a few years ago, and since then has been an invalid. Another stroke of the same disease terminated his life. His character was an admirable one. Its chief attraction was the simple unity of its parts. A knock at his door was answered by a thunderous "Come in!" which sometimes startled the timid, but the ice of ceremony was soon broken, for the old soldier's kind heart was full of responsive sympathy, and his busy brain was full of parental thoughts of how he could best promote the happiness and comfort and education of those about him. He once punished, not severely, an unruly little boy, a day scholar from Georgetown, and the boy's irate father came to the college and attacked Father Clark with a cane. For an instant the eye of the West Pointer kindled with a wicked fire, but only for an instant. Folding his arms across his breast, he bore this cross with passive humility, until one of the scholastics, Mr. James McGuigan, seized the assailant and shook him back into his senses. Those who witnessed the scene said that Father Clark  p52 looked sublime in his conquest over himself as he stood with folded arms during the infliction of the blows.

His talents as an administrative officer were excellent. Georgetown, Gonzaga and Holy Cross Colleges all attest his worth. Thousands of gentlemen — his former students — throughout the United States will read of his demise with peculiar sorrow, for Father James Clark was one of nature's noblemen, and everywhere in the circle of his wide acquaintance he was loved and respected. If ever a self-denying, holy servant of God departed this life I think it was this heroic old Jesuit. But of his charity let each one pray for his soul."

Graduating number thirty-four in his class, Professor Clark was promoted Brevet Second Lieutenant, Fourth Infantry. He served at Fort St. Philip, Louisiana, until August, 1830, when he resigned.

Secretary of the Association.

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Page updated: 4 Jul 14