True gentleman, Clark dies at 91

Published 11:30pm Saturday, October 19, 2013

By Warren Hinson

Special to the Times-Journal

Vaughan Community Health Services board member and retired local banker John Clark, 91, died Thursday at Vaughan Regional Medical Center following a brief illness.

Clark was born in Sheringhan, Norfolk, England, the son of Rose Hannah and Leonard K. Clark, a tailor. Clark’s first job after graduation was at Lloyd’s Bank in London as a junior clerk at the age of 17. He remained at the bank until joining the British Air Force two years later.

The British Air Force provided Clark with his Alabama introduction through orientation and training at Maxwell and Gunter Air Force bases in September 1941. Clark earned his wings and found his wife as a flight officer in Alabama. He married Jean Harmon in October 1943 and Jean joined her husband in England as an employee of the American Red Cross.

Jean returned to the United States in 1946. Her husband arrived in time for the birth of their daughter, Rose, in September. The Clarks settled in Birmingham and John began his long career in banking with The First National Bank of Birmingham in 1946.

While in Birmingham, Clark served his profession, his community and his church. He traveled the state visiting correspondent banks and two of those banks were the City National Bank and the Selma National Bank in Selma.

Catesby ap Catesby Jones recalled Clark’s early visits to Selma.

“He called on my brother, Roger and they became good friends,” Jones said. “He was just such a fine guy and you never saw him without a coat and a tie.”

In March of 1970, Clark was named president of City National Bank of Selma.

Victor B. Atkins Jr. was a friend and worked for Clark.

“I miss him already; I have known him for 30-plus years. I was working there when he first came to the City National Bank. John told me that when he was a school boy in England, his nickname was ‘Nobby’ but at the bank Austin Jones and I always called him,’Gov’nah,’” Atkins said. “Such a great guy; best boss I ever had — a true gentleman. John said when he visited England he was accused of having a Southern accent but he never lost his British accent … ”

During his tenure at the City National Bank, Clark guided the bank through many changes. Whether the changes were introducing drive-in banking and ATM machines (William Teller) through high level negotiations involving the sale of the bank, Clark was unflappable.

Regions Bank Selma president Ed McCurdy was AmSouth Bank Selma President from 1998-2008 and recalled time spent with Clark.

“He had such wisdom, knowledge and understanding. I think it says so much about his character that AmSouth Bank wanted him to have an office after his retirement,” McCurdy said. “I think it shows the respect they had for him and they recognized what an asset he was to AmSouth and to the community.”

McCurdy said Clark was not only from the greatest generation, but was one of the greatest guys who earned his place in history and the utmost respect from everyone.

Catesby ap Roger Jones, resident of First Cahawba Bank, first met Clark when he called on his father, Roger, while Clark was working for First National Bank of Birmingham.

“He was a true gentleman, the last of a great generation, he was a friend, a mentor and he became a sort of father figure after Daddy died,” Jones said. He said he never saw Clark mad, never saw him lose his temper, calling him a true professional.

Andy Stewart’s first banking job was with AmSouth Bank in Selma where he says Clark, “took me under his wing.” Stewart now serves as president of Trustmark Selma.

“He was wise and really supportive. He is who you would want to emulate. He remained supportive even after I left the bank,” Stewart said. “He checked on me and dropped me a note whether things were good or bad. A hand written note means something to me and I have kept them.”

Dr. P.C. DeBardeleben Jr. said Clark “gave many years of dedicated service to the Vaughan Hospital Board of Directors, he also served as Chairman of the Board when the hospital was locally owned.”

According to Vaughan Community Health Services executive directive Kim Cogle, Clark’s 36-year term with Vaughan marks the longest consecutive years of service.

“He attended our last board meeting and he embodies our values of integrity, honesty, compassion and stewardship. During his years of service, some of the biggest changes in health care occurred as well as the merger of the hospitals and he was instrumental in developing Vaughan Place Senior Living Community,” she said. Cogle said Clark also guided the non-profit work in the community through Vaughan Community Health Services.

“He served as our true North and I think he served as that for a lot of people in this community without him ever knowing about it,” Cogle said.

Services will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 11 a.m. with the Rev. David Powell and Rev. Betsy Powell officiating, Lawrence Funeral Services directing.

Visitation services will be held Tuesday at 10 a.m. at St. Paul’s Parrish Hall.

A private family burial will follow.

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