ALBANY – Albany has lost a member of the “Greatest Generation” whose accomplishments continued long after his military service ended.
Eugene Raine Clark Jr. was born in Albany on Nov. 5, 1925. He grew up as a cradle Episcopalian at St. Paul’s and credited the church with preparing him for the life he lived. “I was an alter boy, loved every minute of that service,” he once recalled.
On Saturday, Clark took his own life, according to Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler.
Clark graduated from Albany High School and followed his older brother, Chet, to the Citadel in Charleston, S.C. As soon as he could, he left the Citadel to enlist, joining the 330th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces. While stationed in Guam, he would fly 18 missions as the Fire Controller onboard “Rebels’ Roost.” He was responsible for the operation of six machine guns.
Clark’s bomber group was known appropriately as the “Empire Busters” and would fly one of the last missions targeting mainland Japan before a war-ending cease-fire was declared. Following that mission, the group dropped supplies and rations at locations that were believed to be the sites of Japanese Prison Camps holding American and allied prisoners. The Empire Busters would receive two Distinguished Unit Citations for their actions over Japan.
Clark’s unit would arrive in Tokyo Bay just in time to witness the surrender of the Japanese Empire aboard the Battleship Missouri. Upon his return to the States, Clark enrolled at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he earned a degree in Industrial Management. On the day of his graduation, he married his Atlanta sweetheart, Sarah Rosalie Brown.
Following the marriage, the couple moved to Atlanta, where he worked for a life insurance company. However, that part of his career path would be a short one.
During a weekend party, some of his ATO fraternity brothers disclosed they would be at his office building the following week to apply to the FBI. On that Monday, he decided to give it a shot as well. He was accepted; they were not.
Since he didn’t think he had much of a shot at being accepted by the Bureau, Clark had not discussed the career decision with his bride. She ended up finding out when she opened a letter that said, “You have been admitted to the Federal Service as an FBI trainee,” and was signed by J. Edgar Hoover.
After working through the “mystery,” the couple would spend five years in New Jersey and New York. During his service with the Bureau, Clark would be involved in the investigation of the $2.8 million robbery of the Brinks Building, at that time considered the “crime of the century”.
Clark would return to Albany to care for his father, who Clark said he believes may have been in better health than he claimed as he would live another 15 years. He joined his brothers in the establishment and operation of the Clark Brothers Warehouse Co.
In 1970, Clark stepped into the political arena to serve as mayor, filling the void left by the death of then-Mayor Motie Wiggins. Clark would then run and win another two-year term as mayor of Albany.
Clark said in news reports that he was proud of Albany’s growth during this period, highlighted by Procter & Gamble and Firestone locating in the city, as well as a major expansion of Merck Chemical. Miller Brewing also announced that it would locate a plant here.