Beloved by family and friends, James Howard Clark, Jr., died the night of Sunday, January 3 at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Jim was born to James H. Clark, Sr., and Lillian Bell Clark in New York City on August 28, 1936. He grew up in Rye, New York, Lake Forest, Illinois, the San Francisco Bay area (due to his father's Navy service in World War II), and Dallas. He graduated from St. Mark's School of Texas (1954) and from Yale University (1958), with a degree in Political Science. He then served our country as an officer in the U.S. Navy, serving in two flashpoints of the early Cold War, the Taiwan Strait and Vietnam. He earned his MBA from Stanford Business School in 1962, and then returned to Dallas, where he married Lee Cullum the same year. Their son James Howard Cullum Clark was born in 1966.
Jim's early interest in politics led to service as an advance man in the 1964 presidential campaign of Lyndon B. Johnson. Between 1967 and 1971, he served in the Texas State House of Representatives, where he championed civil rights and women's reproductive rights, often against the wishes of his party's leadership. After leaving government and working with his father in various business ventures, he helped to found and lead the Brookhollow National Bank, and is remembered by numerous Dallas businesspeople for giving them their first loan.
Jim was never a man to follow a conventional path to success in government or business, and in 1976 he made the defining business move of his life by joining a small theatrical sound and lighting company called Showco. Together with an extraordinary band of entrepreneurs and engineers, Jim helped to build Showco, later renamed Vari-Lite, into a world-leading firm that revolutionized stage lighting for touring rock-and-roll groups and Broadway shows and enabled the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Genesis, and numerous other groups to deliver entirely new experiences to concert-goers around the world. His later business career also included numerous real estate and residential development activities as well as helping to build Texas Freezer, a successful refrigerated warehouse company.
In 1981, Jim married Carolyn Levy, and thence commenced a life of adventure and travel. Together they explored the world via boats, RVs, and motorcycles, journeying to the Arctic, the Antarctic, Africa, Europe, and every back road and waterway of North America. They shared a deep love of the natural world and its inhabitants and a commitment to protecting the environment, building an enduring relationship with the World Wildlife Fund. They also shared a passion for modern art and architecture. Together with Carolyn, Jim supported and befriended numerous emerging artists, cared for the mid-20th century collection built by his parents, and served the Dallas Museum of Art as a member of the Board of Trustees and later as a trustee of the Foundation for the Arts for the past 18 years. The two of them also shared a devotion to the four golden retrievers with whom they shared their lives.
In addition to his leadership in business, government, the arts, and the environment, Jim served the people of this region as Board Chair for the Dallas county Mental Health and Mental Retardation agency, as one of the first non-medical members of the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, and as a generous supporter of numerous organizations serving battered women, marginalized students in Dallas schools, and low-income families. He was also passionately loyal to his alma maters, serving Yale as a member of its Development Board and the advisory board for its School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and St. Mark's as a longtime trustee. He chaired several class reunions for both institutions and kept in close touch with classmates.
Jim was a big man with a big personality and big passions—a force of nature. His family and his many friends will remember him for his generous spirit, his zest for life, his drive to experience and cherish beauty in the world and to share it with others, his gift for mentoring younger people, and his devotion to and pride in his family. They will always recall his booming voice, the twinkle in his blue eyes, his forceful opinions on everything from politics to food, and his obvious pride in his children and grandchildren. He was a devoted son and husband, a fierce friend, a doting grandfather, and as fine as father as ever walked the earth.
Jim is survived by his children Cullum and Nita Clark, Susan Palmer, Laurie Schell, and Louis and Melinda Tobian; grandchildren Lili Clark, Annabel Clark, Charlotte Clark, Scott and Joni Palmer, Carrie Palmer and Timothy Swope, Adam Schell, and Tyler Schell; great-granddaughter Renee Carolyn Palmer; brother-in-law Irwin and Judy Levy; extended family Gail and J.P. Lavielle, Lee Cullum, Caren Prothro, Vincent and Dara Prothro, Drake and Mandy Borer, Charles S. Palmer, and many nieces, nephews, and cousins; his dear friend Diane Lowy and her family; and his beloved golden retriever Joey. The family is grateful to his devoted caregiver Aura Castillo and the compassionate staff at Presbyterian Hospital and The Edgemere.
A memorial service will be held for Jim Clark on Wednesday, January 6, at 2:00 pm at the Nasher Sculpture Center. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th St NW, Washington DC 20037; St. Mark's School of Texas, 10600 Preston Rd, Dallas TX 75230; The Episcopal School of Dallas, 4100 Merrell Rd, Dallas TX 75225; or Yale University, 157 Church St, New Haven CT 06510. Online condolences may be made at www.Sparkman-Hillcrest.com.