After 42 years, Pat Clark is retiring
After more than 42 years of service to the government, Judge Pat Clark is retiring. He started in the Army, went to the District Attorney’s Office, the County Court at Law, then District Judge and finally back to the County Court at Law.
But, before his lengthy career began, while in college, he was sitting in his dorm at the University of Texas and with his impending marriage he knew he needed to get a job. So, he said to himself, “Who would you contact in Austin?”
It dawned on him to call the governor’s office for an appointment. Amazingly enough, they gave him one. He didn’t tell anybody, except for his father when he called home. On the day of the appointment, his friends wanted him to go watch a baseball game with them. But, he refused and after they left, he got dressed and headed off to his appointment. Once inside the governor’s office, he introduced himself. Clark explained how he needed a job. Governor Preston Smith then spun around in his large chair and made a phone call. He had called the transportation office and Clark was hired to work as a night watchman. He kept his job until he left to get married. When he returned they had hired someone else in his place. But, he was received a job as clerical worker.
Clark graduated from U.T. in 1970. In later years, his office in the courthouse was heavily adorned with U.T. memorabilia. He is known by many in Orange for his devotion to the University of Texas. Although he is extremely active in the community, it is his love for all things burnt orange that is legendary.
The Orange County Texas Exes, which Clark was former President, proudly announced in 2010 the creation of the Judge Patrick A. Clark Endowed Academic Scholarship. This endowed scholarship is given each year in perpetuity to an Orange County high school senior who excels in community service and will attend the University of Texas as a freshman.
After taking his bar exam, the young future attorney, had his draft notice from the U.S. Army waiting for him. He was offered a direct commission and woke up one morning as a Private E-3 and the same day had become a Captain 0-3. His first cases as a lawyer were in the Army. After his promotion, he was a Captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps until 1974.
Clark was primarily stationed with his wife and two children at Ford Hood. Prior to being discharged he received a call from the District Attorney at that time, Sharon Bearden and was offered a job. As a result, when he returned to Orange, he was hired as Bearden’s first assistant in the DAs office.
Clark continued to work in the DAs office for four years, and was going to be Bearden’s successor when he retired. But, according to Clark, he got tired of waiting and decided to run for judge of the County Court at Law. He won he position and was the judge in county court until 1980.
In 1979 he knew he wanted to become a District Judge. Judge Graham Bruce had held the position for several years and informed Clark he would be retiring. Clark then filed to run for the vacated position and ran unopposed. But, this forced him to resign from his job as county judge. While he waited, he worked as an attorney in the private sector. After winning the position, he flew to Austin to meet in Governor Bill Clemens office. The young Democrat was interviewed by the Republican governor to make sure he could do the job. In addition, members of the local Republican Party also interviewed him.
In February 1980 Clark was appointed to serve the remainder of Bruce’s term and then start his new term. He later proudly earned the title of the “hanging judge” and every four years ran unopposed to retain his job. He remained the district judge until 2011. Clark was the longest sitting active district judge in the State of Texas.
The day after his retirement he made a full circle from where he started and was sworn in as judge of the County Court at Law. He will hold the position until the newly elected judge Mandy White-Rogers takes office which is expected to be on Monday.
During his years as a judge, he has presided over many cases. One case which sticks out in his mind is an asbestos litigation case because of the large number of plaintiffs, lawyers and the many defendant lawyers which took 3 1/2 months to try which didn’t include the preliminary work. However, Clark did not try the case on Fridays to allow time to work on the criminal cases on the docket.
But it was the domestic relations cases which were tough for Clark.
“Parents get so busy fighting that they forget about the children that are being punished by it all,” he said.
But, at the end of the day when he left the office, his job remained at the courthouse.
“My wife would agree I would pretty much leave everything at the courthouse,” Clark said.
Once at home, he was husband and father to three children, Mary Ann, Beth Ann and Pat jr.
“When he came home, it was us, our family and the church,” said Rosalie Clark, Pat Clark’s wife.
Over the years, he has seen many changes. According to Clark, the biggest changes has been the increasing number of women attorneys. When Clark started his career, there was only one woman in law school with him and one female attorney in Orange.
“What a wonderful addition it has been to the profession,” he added. “Now here I am with a female exceeding me as district judge and county court at law.”
Also over the years, he has seen Orange shift from being primarily democrats to primarily republicans. Although, he is says he is not criticizing but it is just an observation.
As a child, Clark’s father,Easuel Clark Jr., was a union carpenter.
“I saw my daddy work hard,” Clark said.
His father would ask him if he worked hard that day and Pat Clark would reply, “No Pop.”
His lesson learned from his father was, “Get a job you like and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
“I have always thoroughly enjoyed my job,” he added.
Clark does not have any definite plans for his retirement. Although, he will file the necessary paperwork to be a visting judge, if his “brethren at the courthouse” want him to cover for them.
“Whatever the good Lord has in mind, but he hasn’t let me know yet,” Clark said.
Clark will also help out at the St. Mary soup kitchen.
In the mean time, he has plans to spend time with his wife, children and seven grandchildren. He is also planning a second trip with his wife to see Italy, Rome and the Holy Land.
“We’ve had a good life,” Rosalie Clark said. “I always knew he would do well.”
Rosalie Clark said the first time her future husband called her was when she was 13 years old.
“I’ve had him ever since,” she said with a smile.
Par Clark feels Orange County is a great place to work and live.
“It’s been a great ride for a Riverside Catholic boy,” he said.
Judge Pat Clark wonders if this is “really retirement?” along with his wife Rosalie Clark while working at the soup kitchen at St. Mary’s church. RECORD PHOTO: Debby Schamber