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William P. Clark

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William P. Clark

William Clark
44th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
November 18, 1983 – February 7, 1985
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by James Watt
Succeeded by Donald Hodel
12th United States National Security Advisor
In office
January 4, 1982 – October 17, 1983
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Richard Allen
Succeeded by Robert McFarlane
6th United States Deputy Secretary of State
In office
February 25, 1981 – February 9, 1982
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Warren Christopher
Succeeded by Walter Stoessel
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
In office
March 23, 1973 – February 25, 1981
Appointed by Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Raymond Peters
Succeeded by Allen Broussard
Personal details
Born William Patrick Clark, Jr.
(1931-10-23)October 23, 1931
Oxnard, California, U.S.
Died August 10, 2013(2013-08-10) (aged 81)
Shandon, California, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Johanna Brauner
Children Monica
Colin Dominick
Alma mater Stanford University
Santa Clara University
Loyola Marymount University
Religion Roman Catholicism

William Patrick Clark, Jr. (October 23, 1931 – August 10, 2013), was an American rancher, judge, and public servant who served under President Ronald Reagan as the Deputy Secretary of State from 1981 to 1982, United States National Security Advisor from 1982 to 1983, and the Secretary of the Interior from 1983 to 1985.

Life and career

A devout Catholic, former seminary student, rancher, lawyer, and aide to Reagan in the California gubernatorial years, Clark served as a justice of the California Supreme Court prior to his Washington appointment, and was known to long to return to California.

According to the Los Angeles Times Clark initially "flunked out of law school" and "had to repeat the bar test",[1] evidently as a result of failing it at first. Clark attended Stanford University and Loyola Law School. He served in the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps.

Clark was a judge of the Superior Court of California from 1969 to 1971 and an associate justice of the California State Supreme Court from 1973 to 1981.

His five children, born to wife Johanna "Joan" Brauner (died April 2009), are Monica, Peter (nicknamed Pete), Nina, Colin, and Paul.

In Washington, people called him "the judge" in deference to his previous court position. He reached the apex of his power when appointed National Security Advisor and temporarily became preeminent among presidential aides.

A longtime rancher friend of Reagan, according to Edmund Morris's Dutch, Clark would walk into Reagan's office unannounced, an unheard-of practice for even the most senior officials. Clark even suggested to the president in light of foreign policy troubles bedeviling the United States in the mid-1980s that Reagan consider not running for reelection in 1984. By that time however, George Shultz had surpassed Clark in influence, and Reagan apparently gave Clark's suggestion no thought.

His biographers credit him with convincing Reagan that the Soviet Union could be pushed to the edge of collapse. The strategy was opposed by Secretary of State George Shultz, among others, leading to rancor in the White House.[2]

Morris writes in his admitted semi-fictionalized narrative biography that Clark resigned in late 1983 when he tired of the "unceasing hostility of [Michael] Deaver, [George] Shultz, and Nancy Reagan." Morris described Clark as "the only man who ever got within a furlong of intimacy" with the notoriously distant Reagan, and his ability to relate to Reagan inspired jealousy, at the same time that Clark's taciturn nature made him unlikely to build allies.

A the NSA position) because she felt that it was interfering with (President) Reagan's efforts to open up better relations with the Soviet Union." Fellow Reagan family biographer James Benze furthers in the commentary, "Nancy Reagan (then) enlists other moderates in the administration to make William Clark's life miserable as National Security Advisor."

On September 21, 1983 Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt embarrassed the administration by yet again making bigoted remarks to the media, causing him to resign on November 8,[3] and Clark requested and received an appointment to replace Watt.

He returned to California after his stint serving the administration and pursued a variety of law firm and other business interests.

After the Iran-Contra hearings in Congress, Clark wrote privately to Reagan urging him to pardon his three aides who were threatened with indictments in the conspiracy: Oliver North, John Poindexter, and Robert McFarlane.[4] Under President George H. W. Bush, Clark also orchestrated the lobbying campaign to obtain a pardon for his friend Casper Weinberger.[5]

His wife, Joan, died in April 2009.

In July 2011, Clark became a member of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS).

Clark lived near the rural community of Shandon, California, where he built a small chapel in the hills of his ranch. He died at home of Parkinson's disease on August 10, 2013 at age 81.[6]

Observations on national and international relations

As National Security Advisor for Ronald Reagan, Clark frequently consulted with and visited with the three living former presidents, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford, leaving a briefing book with them on subjects important to them. For Nixon, it was on East-West Relations including the Soviet Union; for Carter, the Middle East, and for Ford, domestic matters. Consulting with predecessors, in the White House and in the Cabinets of either party, was important to Clark's and therefore, Reagan's success. "While I did not always agree with (former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger's views on national security, I had a close relationship with him and would take his call any time of the day or night," Clark said. "Recognizing that the Reagan administration was serving at the height of the Cold War, I would get his opinions as well as other predecessors in national security–at the Pentagon, State Department and, of course, the White House."

Clark was dismayed at the tones of early 21st Century politics in the United States. "There was a lack of contentiousness between the two political parties that I'm afraid does not exist today," Clark said. "That's one of my worries about making government work — there seems to be far less camaraderie now than we've known in the past."[7]


His biography, The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand, written by Paul Kengor and Patricia Clark Doerner, was published in 2007 by Ignatius Press.[8]


Clark was severely injured when he crashed his airplane on his ranch in Shandon, San Luis Obispo County, California, in 1988. He was pulled from the wreck by Jesus Muñoz, his long-time ranch manager. In part due to his gratitude to God for his recovery, he and his family created a chapel on their ranch, and donated the Spanish ceiling of another to the Thomas Aquinas College library in Santa Paula, Ventura County. Each contains ceilings and other features from European buildings, purchased by Clark from the Hearst Corporation, via his close friend George Randolph Hearst, Jr. The chapel in Shandon, known locally as Chapel Hill, is open to the public.[9]

The auditorium at Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai, California, was named in honor of Judge Clark, as a distinguished alumnus and in recognition of his gifts to the school.


  • Department of the Interior listing
  • American President - William Patrick Clark
Legal offices
Preceded by
Raymond Peters
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
Succeeded by
Allen Broussard
Political offices
Preceded by
Warren Christopher
United States Deputy Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Walter Stoessel
Preceded by
Richard Allen
United States National Security Advisor
Succeeded by
Robert McFarlane
Preceded by
James Watt
United States Secretary of the Interior
Succeeded by
Donald Hodel

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