OBITUARY: James Val Clark

NOW AND THEN

What was future, now is past.

What is now will never last.

The way it works, I don’t how.

But all we really have is now.

—Jim Clark 

James Val Clark, Jim to most, was born on February 19, 1927, in Lockhart, Texas, to Roy Thomas Clark and Ada Masur Clark. He passed away peacefully in his home in Austin on January 7, 2024.

During his nearly 97 years, he was many things — great-grandfather, grandfather, father, husband, son, brother, uncle, friend, PhD, athlete, coach, teacher. He’d tell you, self-effacingly, he’d been a bureaucrat too. Above all, he was a gentle soul dearly loved by many. Yet his kindly demeanor housed an iron will and a wry wit. 

He graduated from Lockhart High School in 1944. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1945 to 1947, much of it in the post-World War II occupation of Germany and Czechoslovakia.  

After his honorable discharge in 1947, he enrolled in Southwest Texas State Teachers College. While there, he met and married the love of his life and best friend, Martha “Marty” Elizabeth Allen of Sabinal, Texas.  

He completed his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics in 1949 and began teaching in the Industrial Consolidated Independent School District in Jackson County, Texas. Shortly after completing his master’s degree in 1952, he became high school principal in the Industrial Consolidated Independent School District. For a while, he was the youngest high school principal in Texas. As a high school principal, he opened the school to the community as a shelter in 1961 during Hurricane Carla, which made landfall during the fall semester as a Category 4 storm. 

In 1963, Jim, Marty, and their daughter Val moved to Lake Jackson, Texas, where both Jim and Marty worked for Brazosport Independent School District — Jim as the director of guidance and research, and Marty as a teacher of English and art at the high school. 

After many summers in Austin, he completed his PhD in educational psychology in 1968 from the University of Texas. He joined the Texas Education Agency in that year as the director of Exemplary and Innovative Education Programs. Later at the TEA, he served as director of Guidance Services, director of Urban Education, director of School Liaison, and eventually as deputy to the commissioner of education. He retired from the TEA in 1990.  

For years, he was active in St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, where he served on the vestry as senior warden and as chair of the long-range planning committee. He served as president of the Texas Personnel and Guidance Association in 1976 and the Texas Association of Counselor Educators in 1975. He served as vice president of the Capital Area Psychological Association from 2004–2006.

He was predeceased by his wife of 70 years, Marty Clark; his brother, Thomas Clark; sister-in-law, Ann Clark; and sister, Ann Clark Minter. He is survived by his daughter, Val Clark Beard of Alpine, Texas, and her husband, Tom Beard; his granddaughter, Martha Beard-Duncan of Austin, Texas, and her husband, Michael Duncan; great-grandson Theodore James Duncan, sister-in-law Carolyn Allen of San Antonio, Texas; five nieces and nephews; and untold thousands of students whose lives he touched.

A memorial service will be held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church at 2128 Barton Hills Drive in Austin, Texas, on January 27, 2024, at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial gifts be made to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church or the charity of your choice.  

Jim was the kind of person who drafted his own obituary in advance, and he closed it with this: “Many thanks to all of my friends who have made my life such a good experience. It was a good ride. Bless you all.”


Related