Living Legend No. 66 – Bob Clark

Westerners International Living Legend No. 66 Bob Clark

Robert A. Clark, distinguished third-generation bookman, publisher, and historian, has had the longest connection with the Los Angeles Corral of Westerners International of any living member, from his own infancy.  Paul Galleher, co-owner of the Arthur H. Clark Company, was one of the original 1946 founders of the Los Angeles Corral of the Westerners.  Galleher served as the Corrals second Sheriff in 1948, the same year that Robert A. Clark was born in Pasadena. Bobs father Art Clark soon joined the Los Angeles Corral, and became very active within it. While Harry Truman was in the White House a very young Bob Clark not only cruised the lanes between the stacks of his family’s bookstore on all fours but also later attended” some of the earliest L.A. Corral Trail Boss meetings as a silent, grade-school-aged observer. His attendance was facilitated during the late 1940s and early 1950s because the L.A. Westerners meetings were held at the A.H. Clark offices/bookstore. In 1953, Bobs father Art Clark became the Los Angeles Corrals lucky 7th Sheriff. Bob Clark reminisces about how the L.A. Corral provided an informal education during the Eisenhower years: Augie Schatra and Don Meadows would complain and holler, but Ray Billington calmed the waters…I watched in awe, and learned about how board meetings worked from these guys.”

Bobs formal education was at Humboldt State University, where he earned a degree in history, then joined the family publishing business full-time. The Arthur H. Clark Company, founded by Bobs grandfather in 1902, has an outstanding record of publication in Western American history that is second to none.  Robert A. Clark followed in his fathers and grandfathers footsteps as Editor in Chief (1984) of this very productive and well-respected publishing company and then as CEO (1989) as it moved and expanded from Glendale, California, to Spokane, Washington, and finally to Norman, Oklahoma.

Robert A. Clark began attending the Los Angeles Corral of the Westerners meetings once again, now as an adult, alongside his father.  He became a member in his own right in the 1970s.  Bob served as the head of the Los Angeles Corral in 1988, following in his fathers footsteps as its first-ever second-generation Sheriff. Bobs interests and geographical peregrinations led him to join three other Westerners Corrals: Huntington (California), Spokane (Washington), and Cross Timbers (Oklahoma). In doing so he may be unique amongst all Westerners around the world, since his memberships in far-flung corrals are separated almost exactly by 1200+ miles North-South and the same distance East-West. Bobs long-term commitment to Westerners International was recognized by his election to the WI Board, where he served as President (the Sheriff of all Sheriffs), for the years 2000-2002.

Bob Clark was no less active in the Western History Association. He joined this organization in 1974,attended its conference meetings annually and served in various capacities. He also served on the board of trustees for the Washington State Historical Society from 1990 to 1999, and was vice-president of the board from between 2000 and 2006. Robert A. Clark has also been active in the Oregon-California Trails Association, the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Association, and the Mormon History Association.

Simultaneously with his service to Westerners International and other historical organizations, while still at the tiller of the most respected scholarly press specializing in Western American history bearing his family name, Bob Clarks output reached its zenith: he was personally responsible for publishing 400+ works on the American West through the A.H. Clark company and the University of Oklahoma Press. He also somehow found the time to serve as production editor and designer for no fewer than five different scholarly journals on Western American history: the Southern California Quarterly,California History (the California Historical Society Quarterly), Overland Journal (the California-Oregon Trails Association Quarterly), the California Mission Studies Quarterly Boletín, and We Proceeded On (the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Association Quarterly).

Rounding out Bobs 16-hour workdays, week after week, year after year, he continued the family’s antiquarian book-selling business as part of the A.H. Clark Companys fully-rounded commitment to Western American history. Not only the publisher of works by other leading scholars, including Westerners from many different corrals, Bob has also contributed in his own write” as well, as the author, co-author, and editor of three books, and several dozen book introductions and articles on Western American history.

After more than eight decades in Glendale, California, Bob moved the Arthur H. Clark Company to Spokane, Washington, in 1989. Then, in 2006, Bob moved both himself and his wife Sheila along with the A.H. Clark Company to Norman, Oklahoma. There it functioned as an imprint of the University of Oklahoma Press under his direction. In 2012 Bob and Sheila moved back west to Baja British Columbia” where he was honored to serve as the Editor-in-Chief of Washington State University Press. The veteran of more years in scholarly publishing than any other three or four hard-working bibliophiles, Bob finally retired in 2019. He is now most easily reached by cell phone on the Pullman, Washington, golf course, except during inclement weather.

Few historian-publishers have had a closer and more formative relationship with the Frontier West than Robert A. Clark. For more than half a century just about every member of all 70+ Westerners Corrals around the world have enthused about books published by him. These find places of honor on bookshelves in both public and private libraries alongside earlier volumes published by Bobs father and grandfather. Western historians for more than a century have thanked their lucky stars that three generations of Clarks, and the wonderful Arthur H. Clark Company, have so diligently and outstandingly filled their literary needs for so long.

The Los Angeles Corral is pleased and proud to announce that the Home Ranch of Westerners International has accepted Robert A. Clark as Living Legend No. 66, an honor as well-deserved as it is overdue

Nominated by Brian Dervin Dillon, Ph.D., 8 17 2019