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Thomas D. Clark of Kentucky

Thomas D. Clark of Kentucky: An Uncommon Life in the Commonwealth

Edited by John E. Kleber
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Thomas D. Clark of Kentucky
    Book Description:

    By the flip of a coin, Thomas Dionysius Clark became intertwined in the vast history of Kentucky. In 1928, Clark received scholarships to both the University of Cincinnati and to the University of Kentucky. Kentucky won the coin toss and the claim to one of the South's eminent historians. In 1990, when the Kentucky General Assembly honored Clark by declaring him Kentucky's Historian Laureate for life, Governor Brereton Jones described Clark as "Kentucky's greatest treasure." Historian, advocate, educator, preservationist, publisher, writer, mentor, friend, Kentuckian -- Dr. Clark has filled all these roles and more. Thomas D. Clark of Kentucky is a celebration of his life and careerby just a few of those who have felt his influence and shared his enthusiasm for his adopted home state of Kentucky.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5742-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Section photo credits
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Carl N. Degler

    When I was a beginning assistant professor at Vassar College on the banks of the Hudson River in New York, I tried as often as I could to visit historical conventions. There I could observe and occasionally meet the great names of the profession whose books or articles I had been reading and admiring. (I was bookish in those days.) I was especially excited at meetings of the Southern Historical Association, for the South was just gaining my attention as a region of the United States; it would soon become a long-term interest of mine. At those meetings I might...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    John E. Kleber
  6. Part I. The Life

    • Biography
      (pp. 3-8)
      Walter A. Baker

      Tom Clark once said, “I have known every Kentucky governor since Isaac Shelby.” While this literally is not so, he is undoubtedly more knowledgeable about Kentucky—its history, its leaders, and its people—than any other person. For more than a half century each of Kentucky’s governors has sought Clark’s counsel on how our state can avoid repeating the mistakes of its past and insure progress for its future.

      Yet Kentucky’s best-known historian is not a native Kentuckian. Born in Louisville, Mississippi, on July 14, 1903, Tom Clark is the son of a Mississippi cotton farmer and a public school...

  7. Part II. The Historian

    • Kentucky Historian
      (pp. 11-30)
      James C. Klotter

      In 1941, John F. “Sunny” Day’s bookBloody Groundappeared. In it the journalist gave his impressions of Appalachian Kentucky. Chapter 12 told of going to a “funeralizing” on Troublesome Creek. Day had another person with him as he made his way up Betty Branch of Troublesome, someone who was also using the trip to gather information for a book. Journalist Day began his eventual chapter with “Tom” picking up a piece of shale and skipping it across the narrow creek, then remarking, “Looks just like any other branch in the hills, doesn’t it?”

      “Yeh,” Day answered.

      Tom noted, “With...

    • Local Historian
      (pp. 31-52)
      Nancy Disher Baird and Carol Crowe Carraco

      In the late 1970s an administrator at an Ivy League university asserted, “Local and community history may well be one of the fastest growing popular intellectual pursuits in the United States.” Historian Thomas D. Clark clearly anticipated this observation fifty years earlier as he pursued graduate studies at the University of Kentucky and at Duke University. His master’s thesis was entitled, “The Trade Between Kentucky and the Cotton Kingdom in Livestock, Hemp, and Slaves,” and his dissertation dealt with the development of railroads in the South before 1860. Published in 1933 asThe Beginning of the L&N, it joined an...

    • Southern Historian
      (pp. 53-68)
      Charles P. Roland

      By any gauge Professor Thomas D. Clark is one of the nation’s most renowned living historians, the honored patriarch of the discipline. He is a remarkably productive scholar, the author of thirty-two books. He is also an extraordinarily versatile scholar, having written authoritatively in many fields of American history, including that of the American South.

      One is tempted to say that he imbibed southern history with his mother’s milk. He is southern to the marrow of his bones, with a regional quality that shows spectacularly in his speech and mannerisms and in virtually every line of his writing. I met...

  8. Part III. The Advocate

    • Agrarian
      (pp. 71-78)
      William E. Ellis

      Since his arrival in the commonwealth, Thomas Dionysius Clark has exhorted his fellow Kentuckians to learn from history and from our past mistakes. Praised by journalist John Ed Pearce as “The Sage of Kentucky” and described by Pearce’s fellow journalist Al Smith as “progressive, optimistic, extremely energetic, and in so many ways the good citizen,” Tom Clark has an uncanny grasp of almost every facet of our heritage. Unfortunately, his gentle admonitions have often fallen on deaf ears. He understands, better than anyone else, the role of agriculture in America’s history and in that of his adopted state.

      Well into...

    • Education Advocate
      (pp. 79-96)
      Robert F. Sexton

      Thomas D. Clark and his old friend, Yale historian C. Vann Woodward, corresponded for many years about their profession, their families, and the condition of the world. In one letter, though, Woodward groused a little too much for Clark, writing about the “miserable century” they had both lived through. “I don’t share that point of view at all,” responded Clark, “we can look back on this century and, I think, call it Kentucky’s century.”¹ Tom, perhaps more than any Kentuckian, knows the reality of Kentucky’s historical problems with education. But he’s an optimist anyway. This contradiction lies at the heart...

    • Kentuckian
      (pp. 97-102)
      John Ed Pearce

      The term Kentuckian covers a multitude od identities. It is not easy to say with certainty just who is a Kentuckian, or why. Most people considered or claiming to be Kentuckians are those who are born in the state, live within its borders all or most of their lives, are buried in its soil. But there are others who also may claim or deserve the title. Some are born here but leave to find careers or broader horizons but never cease to think of themselves as Kentuckians. Some live their lives outside the Bluegrass state but, by their own design,...

    • Preservationist
      (pp. 103-126)
      William Marshall

      A phone call awakened Thomas D. Clark at three o’clock one early spring morning in 1936. James W. Martin, Clark’s University of Kentucky colleague, who also served as the Commissioner of Revenue in Governor A.B. “Happy” Chandler’s administration, quickly explained the reason for the call. The previous day the state librarian had sent two truckloads of state records to Louisville to be sold as scrap paper, and more were to be sent that morning. “I want you to go to Frankfort with me,” Martin hurriedly told Clark. “Don’t take time to dress, just go as you are.”¹ Throwing on his...

    • Publisher
      (pp. 127-142)
      Wm. Jerome Crouch

      It was indeed an auspicious moment for the University of Kentucky, for Kentucky itself, and for scholarly publishing in the commonwealth when in September of 1928 the westbound Chesapeake & Ohio train bearing Thomas D. Clark pulled into the station at Lexington, even though the band and the crowd on the platform were there to greet Clark’s fellow passenger, Senator Charles Curtis, the Republican candidate for the vice presidency. Fittingly, like many of the settlers who had preceded him into the state that he was to claim as his own, Clark arrived in Kentucky by way of Virginia, where he...

  9. Part IV. The Friend

    • Colleague
      (pp. 145-158)
      Mary Wilma Hargreaves

      I first met Thomas D. Clark at a faculty reception on the lawn at Maxwell Place on a fall evening in 1948. He was then head of the history department at the University of Kentucky, while I was a mere doctoral candidate at Radcliffe immersed in writing a dissertation about settlement in the American West. Since I was working under an exponent of the thesis of Frederick Jackson Turner—that American democracy was an outgrowth of the development of successive frontiers on cheap public land, a view widely discussed among historians of that period—I raised the topic in our...

    • Southern Writer
      (pp. 159-178)
      Wade Hall

      When I moved to Louisville in late December of 1962, I already knew that Kentucky was the home of Daniel Boone, Mrs. Wiggs, the Little Colonel, Jesse Stuart, and Thomas D. Clark. I had met Boone in a history class and Mrs. Wiggs, the Little Colonel, and Stuart in my English classes. Moreover, Stuart was a real person still alive and had saved my career when I was a discouraged, nineteen-year-old first-year teacher in a small town in South Alabama. One afternoon after classes the school librarian saw me sitting disconsolately in the reading room and asked me my problem....

    • Friend
      (pp. 179-186)
      Leonard P. Curry

      Certainly I consider Thomas D. Clark to be my friend and hope that he thinks of me as his. I took courses under Professor Clark and he directed a thesis and a dissertation that were earlier versions of my first two books, so it is impossible for me to dismiss my experience of having him as a mentor. Moreover, like many other historians of my generation, I have read a number of his books and cannot wipe from my consciousness his contributions as a scholar, nor forget my awareness of the way in which his work has constituted examples and...

    • Inspirer
      (pp. 187-202)
      James Duane Bolin

      From a sixth-floor office at a regional university in far western Kentucky, it is not difficult for a not-so-young historian in mid-career to be inspired again by Thomas D. Clark. Indeed, I am reminded of Clark whether I turn to scan bookshelves lined with his works published by a university press that he helped to found, or turn to framed photographs of Kentucky’s historian laureate at a recent book fair in Frankfort, or to a posed book cover shot of a pensive Clark in “country gentleman” hat, no doubt considering the future grandeur of South Carolina or Kentucky tree seedlings...

    • Mentor
      (pp. 203-216)
      Edward M. Coffman

      Thomas D. Clark is recognized as one of Kentucky’s major cultural assets and throughout his long career, he has taught and influenced thousands of students. It was my privilege to be one of the relative few who worked with him as both an undergraduate and graduate student. Having him as a mentor for more than fifty years has certainly been to my great advantage as a scholar and teacher.

      On a crisp January day in 1949, I was among some two hundred students crowding into the large classroom on the third floor of Frazee Hall at the University of Kentucky....

  10. Part V. The Works

    • Bibliographic Essay
      (pp. 219-236)
      Lowell H. Harrison

      Thomas D. Clark is by a wide margin the most productive historian Kentucky has ever had. His first book was published in 1933; his most recent work appeared in November 2002. He insists that he was never motivated by a “publish or perish” edict; he has been active in researching and writing because of his creative urge. When he has encountered a subject that needed attention, he has accepted the challenge of doing something about it. In an extended interview with Bill Cunningham, Clark discussed some aspects of his philosophy of writing.

      I think the writing of history for the...

  11. Contributors
    (pp. 237-242)
  12. Index
    (pp. 243-258)