ORAL HISTORY OF JULIA PENNY CLARK
December 15, 2015
Ms. Upadhyava: It’s December 15th at 5:40pm at the offices of Bredhoff & Kaiser. We are
celebrating Penny Clark’s fortieth anniversary at the firm today. So I’m going
to start with asking Penny a little bit about her anniversary with the firm and
then we will go back to resuming sequentially the taking of your oral history if
that works for you.
Ms. Clark: Sure!
Ms. Upadhyava: So is today your actual fortieth anniversary.
Ms. Clark: It is! By my recollection, I started on December 15th 1975. Now my office
manager says that her records show that I started on December 1st but I know
it was not the first day of the month. So somebody must have just put
December 1st for who- knows-what reason, healthcare coverage, or
Ms. Upadhyava: Right.
Ms. Clark: It was December 15th 1975.
Ms. Upadhyava: And… did you start as a Summer…, as a first-year associate?
Ms. Clark: I started as an Associate. I had had two years as a federal law clerk so they
gave me credit for that time. I mean it was such a small firm, it’s not like there
was a tenure track and I had to be in step with anybody else but I was
considered, I guess, a third-year associate for that reason.
Ms. Upadhyava: Are you a partner with the longest tenure at the firm?
Ms. Clark: At the moment I am! Yes
Ms. Upadhyava: Congratulations.
Ms. Clark: Everybody ahead of me has retired.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok…. [both laugh lightly] And what will you be doing….will the whole firm
be joining you for dinner tonight?
Ms. Clark: No,…we invited some of the people who were here when I started just to keep
it as a small group, and so I’m looking forward to seeing people who I thought
of as my mentors and who taught me most of what I know by way of how to
Ms. Upadhyava: Do you keep in touch with your mentors…
Ms. Clark: Oh yes
Ms. Upadhyava: for the most part?
Ms. Clark: Yes yes. So these are Michael Gottesman who is a Professor of Law at
Georgetown Law School now; George Cohen who after he retired from the firm
was head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and is now retired
from that; and Bob Weinberg who is retired from the firm.
Ms. Upadhyava: That’s wonderful.
Ms. Clark: So they’re all great lawyers.
Ms. Upadhyava: So where will you be celebrating tonight?
Ms. Clark: The Equinox.
Ms. Upadhyava: Excellent! Excellent! Well, congratulations! So last time we spoke on our
first session we had discussed your upbringing in mostly in Charleston,….
Ms. Clark: Mhm…
Ms. Upadhyava: and.your move to Waco in the ninth grade, partially into the ninth grade.
Ms. Clark: Right
Ms. Upadhyava: A we talked a little bit about the differences in culture and the fact that Waco
was not as overtly a culture
Ms. Clark: Racist is the code word you can use it.
Ms. Upadhyava: Racist.
Ms. Clark: [laughs]
Ms. Upadhyava: Thank you. Even though it was segregated, it was not overtly… the culture
of racism was not so overt. And we talked a little bit about your time in high
school, but we didn’t get too far into it. So I wanted to pick back up there.
We talked about your mother having gone back to work for a short period of
time when you went back to Waco.
Ms. Clark: Yes.
Ms. Upadhyava: And pretty traumatic.
Ms. Clark: When my dad was in Vietnam.
Ms. Upadhyava: Right. A pretty traumatic experience that she had and then she never went
back to work after that I understand it.
Ms. Clark: Right.
Ms. Upadhyava: Your father was in Vietnam…around what grades were you in just to put it
in context while he was serving there.
Ms. Clark: I was a junior in high school.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok.
Ms. Clark: For the year that he was there.
Ms. Upadhyava: And was he serving in Vietnam or..
Ms. Clark: Yes at Tan Son Nhut Air Force base in Saigon.
Ms. Upadhyava: At the time did you have any views about the war? And about American
service men and women serving in Vietnam?
Ms. Clark: No, it was early in the war that was 1963, and I didn’t, you know, I think…I
had not been very conscious even that there was a war going on before that.
You know if you think back to it, it was ’68 when concerns about the war
caused Lyndon Johnson to step down. This is this is while Kennedy was still
Ms. Upadhyava: Mhm…
Ms. Clark: So August of ’63 was when my father left to go to Vietnam and he came back
in August of ’64. So this is…this is the Kennedy presidency Vietnam War.
And while my father was there, there was a coup that some army group
Vietnamese army bombed the palace and I can’t remember what happened to
the fellow who was president/prime minister – I don’t know what the titles
were – but um…he was he was certainly ousted from office. And the Tet
Offensive also happened while my father was there. So that was really kind of
the beginning of full on combat. The U.S. Air Force was dropping Agent
Orange from the air at the time. My father after he came back would describe
that the planes would come back and they had all this powder all inside
[chuckles] and the powder I’m not sure it was actually orange, I think it might
have been that it was just it had a that maybe the packages were orange, but
there was some connection there but it would come back with all this powder
all over it. Of course the maintenance crews had to clean the planes out. As a
result of that my mother got compensation after he died. He died of lung
Ms. Upadhyava: Lung cancer [softly spoken].
Ms. Clark: And initially I guess, he made a claim for compensation and it was denied. She
had made another claim for compensation shortly after he died, and that was
also denied. And then Congress passed a law that provided that anyone who was
in the functions of handling Agent Orange and who died of certain kinds of
cancer would be entitled to compensation without having to prove causation.
Ms. Upadhyava: Mhm.
Ms. Clark: And she made another application and it was granted. And it’s kind of a
digression, but I would not necessarily ever have known about that, except I
was working really late one night here at the firm writing a brief in opposition
to a petition for certiorari, and we had decided, given what time of year it was,
we wanted to get our opp. cert. immediately. We actually filed it the day after
the petition was filed. And I was here with one of my colleagues and we
worked until about 3 in the morning and finished our brief, and I hailed a cab
to get home, and the taxi driver had this radio program on in his taxi that was
talking about this new legislation. And I go “wow!” you know that could help
my mother, and the next day after I woke up [chuckles] I called her and I said –
have you heard about this? – and she said no, and I said well, let’s look into it.
Ms. Upadhyava: Oh wow.
Ms. Clark: So it’s just one of those amazing coincidences that just kind of hits at just the
right time, just the right place and normally I don’t listen to the radio at 3 in
Ms. Upadhyava: at 3 am… [laughing lightly]. Although at that time you just wanna stay up so
I’m guessing you’re attentive to anything that’s being played.
Ms. Clark: Well I would have been happy to go to sleep at the back of the taxi but I’m not
sure could trust the driver to get me home.
Ms. Upadhyava: Right
Ms. Upadhyava: This would have been the early 80s?
Ms. Clark: It was…
Ms. Upadhyava: Or late 70s…?
Ms. Clark: No. No. My father died in ’83…
Ms. Upadhyava: Echoes ’83…Right.
Ms. Clark: …and this would have been in this would have been in the ‘90s.
Ms. Upadhyava: Oh ok. I see…
Ms. Clark: So ’94 probably.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok. Did your father, when he was gone, and what was life like without him
there versus when he was home?
Ms. Clark: I had my mother all to myself, which was, for a junior in high school, not a
Ms. Upadhyava: Mhhm.
Ms. Clark: I, you know, we missed him. He was a very lively personality and was always
around kind of keeping things busy. And things were quieter without him. But I
don’t think we were particularly worried about his safety except these specific
events like the coup and the Tet Offensive were brief but that’s before any kind
of electronic communication, so we just got letters after the fact.
Ms. Upadhyava: Mhm
Ms. Clark: He was sick for a brief period of time, something like a.., an antibiotic that he
took caused him to lose his eyesight briefly and they sent him to a hospital
outside of Vietnam so maybe in the Philippines where he stayed for a week,
and recovered his eyesight. So it was a rather strange thing.
Ms. Upadhyava: Did he ever talk about the war with…? I mean, did you ever speak on
phone while he was away or was it just letters?
Ms. Clark: Nooo….It was just letters.
Ms. Upadhyava: That must have been stressful for your family.
Ms. Clark: Sure, no we.., you know the communication, the fastest means of
communication would be either a telegram, or you could call-there was an
office at the Air Force base that was involved in , you know, taking care of the
families back home and we didn’t call on them for very much. But if you
needed to get an immediate communication to the service member or vice
versa, then they had some means of doing it. But I’m sure we never heard his
voice on the phone during that whole time.
Ms. Upadhyava: Was that his last time away in combat duty.
Ms. Clark: It was his last time outside the US, yes, I’m sure.
Ms. Upadhyava: Alright, and did you speak to him while he was away…um (just making
sure that we…ok) did you speak to him um, I’m sorry…when he came
back about his time in Vietnam? I mean, did he talk about it with you or….
Ms. Clark: He had, he brought back boxes full of photographic slides which he had taken
while he was there, and I still have them
Ms. Upadhyava: Oh do you really?…
Ms. Clark: Yeah. And I know he showed us the slides more than once [both laugh],
hopefully, or maybe he was actually sending them back while he was away.
They would come back, he would send the film back and we would have them
developed at home. So we were getting these pictures the whole time and after
he came back, I know that he – you know – would invite over people that he
knew and do a slide show for them and talk about what was in the pictures and
what had been going on there. His own experience was very different from
people who are out in combat because he was at the Air Force base, and except
for some threat with the Tet Offensive, which I think there was some concern
that the North Vietnamese might actually reach the Air Force base. My
recollection is that they didn’t, but it was it was not a…he wasn’t under
physical threat. He was just there at the Air Force base taking care of these
airplanes as they would come back from the combat runs, bombing runs,
spraying runs, whatever and so um, I do remember one this he told us that
General Westmoreland insisted that every time he came back that his plane be
hand-polished with glass wax.
Ms. Upadhyava: Laughs]
Ms. Clark: Now I once mentioned that to an Air Force officer who said “maybe there’s less
drag” [both laugh]
Ms. Clark: And I kind of took that to mean…
Ms. Upadhyava: Maybe…
Ms. Clark: You know… I suppose you could in theory suggest that the airplane might
need it but if that the case then wouldn’t you do that for all the planes
Ms. Upadhyava: That is too funny…all of them.
Ms. Clark: Not only the General’s plane…
Ms. Upadhyava: Exactly, that’s funny…(laughs a little) Did he travel? Did he get a chance
to travel much? Out of the country?
Ms. Clark: I don’t think very much at all. No, I mean he was able to go into Saigon and as
we see took a lot of pictures in Saigon. He had an R & R, whatever – the rest
and relaxation/rest and recreation –whatever it is in Bangkok while he was
there. But I don’t, and other than the trip to the hospital in the Philippines, I
don’t think he did any other traveling.
Ms. Upadhyava: What did, did he have any impressions of the country or his time there, that
he…any strongly held views I guess…let me put it that way that he brought
back with him, or was it really back to business as usual when he came home?
Ms. Clark: It’s hard to say. He was…I would say he was more outwardly religious
when he came back and I don’t know if that’s an effect of having being
there or not.[short silence] But, it wasn’t like him to change his personality
in any way or you know…he didn’t seem to be suffering any kind of posttraumatic
stress or anything. I mean, I think just the nature of his duty was
such that he wasn’t under that kind of stress.
Ms. Upadhyava: I see.
Ms. Clark: I mean, not like people who were actually in combat in the rice paddies.
Ms. Upadhyava: Right. And I assume at the time neither he nor your family or anyone really
knew what the long-lasting effects of any of the chemicals…
Ms. Clark: No of course not
Ms. Upadhyava: …was going to be – I take it – right?
Ms. Clark: No. I’m sure that’s right. Nobody even suspected at that
point in time. It was quite a bit later that we started hearing
about Agent Orange and its effects on both the people who
were on the ground who were sprayed, and the people who
were exposed to it in combat operations.
Ms. Upadhyava: Did he have a job when he came home?
Ms. Clark: He stayed in the Air Force for about another year. Actually I wrote down his
retirement – at least I thought I wrote down his retirement date (looking over
some documents)…no, I don’t think I did. But he was still working at the Air
Force base in Waco through my senior year of high school. And they were in
the process of closing that base, in fact, they had already announced it before he
came home. And he was identified for a transfer to San Antonio, but he said he
didn’t want to take me out of high school in my senior year and move me to a
whole new place. And so he put in his application for retirement. That allowed
him to work at the Waco Air Force Base until it was closed. And at that point
that was when he retired.
Ms. Upadhyava: And so you said that closed during your senior year or after your senior
Ms. Clark: Sometime around, yes, so it would have been around mid ’65. I don’t
remember precisely when but it was some point about that time.
Maybe even late ’65.
Ms. Upadhyava: Now, he came home from Vietnam, and just a couple of months, a few
months later, President Kennedy was assassinated. Do I have the time
Ms. Clark: The assassination was while he was in Vietnam.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok…
Ms. Clark: It was November of ’63.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok. Do you have a memory of that?
Ms. Clark: Oh yeah. Absolutely.
Ms. Upadhyava: Do you want to share with me what you remember?
Ms. Clark: I was in my government class, and they broke in on the loud speaker to say
that shots had been fired in Dallas. I mean I was aware that President Kennedy
was visiting Dallas – it’s kind of a big deal, it’s a hundred miles away but still
kind of close, and um, they broke in to say shots had been fired and I can’t
remember if at that first announcement they said that the President had been
taken to the hospital. And then they kept coming in with more updates, kind
of every few minutes about something new. And and… I remember the
announcement (in a whisper – you think after all these years it wouldn’t be
this emotional)…I remember the announcement that he had been given
Catholic Last Rites, and there was one Catholic student in my classroom and
she said that – “that means he’s dead”. [trying to control the tears] And then
everything just kind of fell apart. I think they dismissed class…they..we had
an entire weekend, where there was nothing on television but all of the funeral
related events. And I remember being in the house by myself. So my mother
may have been baby-sitting for somebody, maybe doing church activities –
I’m not sure – but I remember being in the house by myself and just watching
endless broadcasts of all of the ..you know…everything you know – Jack
Ruby coming in being shot, I mean, I was watching the TV when he was shot,
the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, the coming in with bits and pieces of
information about who he was, and that he had travelled to Russia, and that he
had travelled to Cuba. I mean, all these things which were just kind of
coming, you know…you may remember September 11, 2001.
Ms. Upadhyava: Sure! Of course!
Ms. Clark: Then it’s the same kind of thing with just bits and pieces coming and you
know…and broadcasters on air crying. And then the funeral which was really
moving. Both the service in the Cathedral and the parades, and you’ve seen all
the pictures…I’m sure one time or another. But it was like from Friday midday
which is when all the shooting took place until certainly all the way
through Sunday and there was nothing else on television except the coverage
of these events. That was back in the day when there were only 3 broadcast
stations. We didn’t have cable, we didn’t have the variety of things that might
otherwise have been available to provide distraction…not that anybody I knew
wasn’t just glued to the TV, we were glued to the TV we were watching all of
these events and everything that had happened. LBJ being sworn in, and flying
back to Washington and all of the things that were happening during that
period. Not that long ago I read the 4th Volume of Robert Caro’s The Years of
Lyndon B. Johnson – one of the wonderful biographies. I’m particularly
drawn to them because of the Texas connection but that was the volume that
described the shooting and his stepping into the Presidency and it’s a powerful
book. It’s really powerfully written. I couldn’t put it down. [laughs…] One of
those things where you read much later at night than you intend to or should.
Ms. Upadhyava: Right, right. Why does this have such an effect on you at this time do you
Ms. Clark: You know…I was…I was…fascinated with President Kennedy. You know…it
was the whole Camelot, the glamor, the…I mean… he conducted the wittiest
news conferences. I mean he would just parry these reporter’s questions in
charming ways and Jackie was so beautiful. I think…I mean…I’m sure there
must have been people who didn’t like the Kennedys, but I just found them
particularly appealing, and my first kind of making a connection with them
and…– I always think of this as really funny – we were still in Charleston
during the campaign and I was in 8th grade, and the social studies teacher
wanted to have mock presidential debates. Because for the very first time that
anybody was really aware they were holding these Kennedy- Nixon debates –
on TV. And we could watch them and sort of keep track of what the issues
where they were debating. And so the teacher says, “we are gonna have
presidential debates, who wants to be Kennedy?” And nobody volunteered!
Ms. Upadhyava: [laughs lightly]
Ms. Clark: And I said ok, that’s me I’ll be Kennedy. So I started learning about all of the
issues, and Kennedy’s position on the issues; and the more I learned about him
the more I liked him. And even though the huge sentiment in, at least in my
school was for pro-Nixon, it was a great experience for me, sort of…doing the
debates as John Kennedy, and then I was really, you know…everything about
him and his administration was very appealing. We didn’t know the dark side
in those days,
Ms. Upadhyava: Sure.
Ms. Clark: And all that didn’t come out until years later. But I read Profiles in Courage and
PT109. He was a war hero. He was a very attractive, young, to all appearances,
healthy man. As it turns out he wasn’t all that healthy. But that was not apparent
other than we knew he had a rocking chair because of his bad back, and
generally it was put out that his back had been injured in the PT109 incident as
opposed to it being as a result of the chronic condition that he had.
Ms. Upadhyava: What was the sentiment like about his presidency in Waco? I mean…were
most people supportive of the President?
Ms. Clark: I think so, you know there were space shots going on. They were launching, the
initial, I guess the first… before Gemini, I think they call it the first round of….
Ms. Upadhyava: Mercury?
Ms. Clark: Mercury, right. So they were launching the Mercury capsules and that was
all really exciting and we were doing all these great things. And I don’t
recall experiencing any hostility towards Kennedy and I don’t recall anyone
responding to his assassination by saying “Oh he got what was coming…
Ms. Upadhyava: Right…
Ms. Clark: …or anything like that.” It was really…I think he was very well liked
Ms. Upadhyava: What was high school like for you in Waco?
Ms. Clark: The school was better equipped than I had had in Charleston. It was a smaller
school than I had been in so there were only about a hundred people in each
Ms. Upadhyava: Mhm.
Ms. Clark: I had been from age 3, I mean this was my thing… I could do book learning, I
could do anything that had to do with reading, I was decently good at math
and science – that wasn’t my strongest point but I had every expectation that I
was going to go to college, and I was just…I mean, I loved it! I really enjoyed
school. And I tried sports – I was never any good at sports, but I did drama, I
did debate partly just because there wasn’t anybody else to volunteer.[both
laugh…] It was just one of those things where I was, had done some of the
drama, and so speech and drama were all kind of under the same faculty
sponsor, and he said, “We really ought to send our girls debate team to district
competition and I don’t have any girl debaters.” And a friend of mine, who
wasn’t really that close a friend until we started debating together, said “I’ll do
it if you will.” And so we volunteered and I started learning all about what
high school debate was like. She and I spent a lot of time together working
through our little cards. Everything was done on cards in those days, you
know…like 3 x 5 index cards, all your little nuggets of information that you
would use, and um, one of the topics was disarmament -I did it two years- one
was disarmament, and the other was Medicare. You know before Medicare
Ms. Upadhyava: Interesting!
Ms. Clark: And we just had boxes and boxes full of our little cards. We did research at the
library, and she was always the opening statement person, and I guess… she
also did some kind of a closing statement…because that could be a set piece.
You know and she felt more comfortable being the one who had a written script,
and she could deliver it with great vigor and drama. And I was the one who did
the counterpunches. So I did all of the rebuttal, and it was great fun! I really…I
really got a lot of pleasure out of that. We won district, at least one year…I think
we won district during both years…
Ms. Upadhyava: Really?!
Ms. Clark: …but didn’t win regionals so…we didn’t go really far in the competition, but
it was…it was great fun! And I, you know, I doubled in on other things, extra52
curricular activities like the high school choir, and high school yearbook even
for a while, newspaper, that was what I did mostly – was the high school
newspapers. So I wrote for the high school newspaper and did the debate and
some drama, and it was a great experience for me.
Ms. Upadhyava: Did you miss Charleston at all?
Ms. Clark: I don’t think I ever did. I don’t recall ever feeling like you know…I’m home
sick for Charleston, I wish I were back there…
Ms. Upadhyava: And did Pepper move away… I guess, would you have been in high school,
early high school, did she move away?
Ms. Clark: She got married in ’63 right after she graduated. I was … That was just
before my father left for Vietnam. And she and her husband, he was also in
the Air Force and was stationed there at the Waco Air Force base. And they
lived there for about a year. Before he… could it have been as long as 2
years? Because he was in Vietnam during my freshman year of college, and
I’m trying to think where they were when I was a senior. [Short pause…] I’m
not sure. They may have moved to Louisiana about the time that I was a
Ms. Upadhyava: Did you see her often?
Ms. Clark: When, for that first year, they lived very close to us, just 2 blocks away. So we
saw them regularly.
Ms. Upadhyava: Describe your group of friends in high school. Or you know, who your friends
Ms. Clark: Well, they were… (sigh) it was quite a mix of people. There were actually
some who weren’t thinking about going to college. Um, Linda Beth
Cunningham, no, not Cunningham…Linda Beth…it started with a C… Texas is
big for the double names…
Ms. Upadhyava: [laughs]
Ms. Clark: …you know like Linda Beth, Joe Tom, Jim Bob…
Ms. Upadhyava: Laughing
Ms. Clark: That’s not just a joke…Right. Yes. There’s some part of that. I remember some
of the girls I spent a lot of time with were not college bound. Most of them
were. It was not the popular group, it was not the cheerleaders, it wasn’t the
people who dated the football team. It was people who went to my church, for
one thing. Probably, primarily, people who went to my church. But then others
that I had just come to know and it wasn’t a huge group but probably, I would
say maybe about a dozen people that I spent a lot of time with and enjoyed their
company. None of them went to University of Texas, where I went, so except
my debate partner who came a year later. She was a year behind me in high
school and we were actually roommates for a year.
Ms. Upadhyava: Oh really!?
Ms. Clark: Yeah.
Ms. Upadhyava: Did uh, when you…, what was her name?
Ms. Clark: Linda Brown.
Ms. Upadhyava: Linda Brown…and when you debated in competitions were you against
other female competitions?
Ms. Clark: Oh yeah. Rigidly segregated by gender… (Enthusiastically says…) was only
girls’ debate and boys’ debate.
Ms. Upadhyava: Really?
Ms. Clark: Yes.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok, interesting. So if you won’t mind putting this period of time, I guess, let’s
talk a little bit about your later years in high school. Um…what was the climate
like in terms of segregation? Or were you conscious of it? Was it something
you were starting to form further beliefs on?… I know you said earlier in your
life, your view was you recall that schools were segregated, and that public
accommodations were segregated, and your reaction, you mentioned in our last
session was, you know….what…you couldn’t really see the point of it, and you
just didn’t see why it was necessary.
Ms. Clark: Yeah, and I was never conscious of public accommodations being segregated in
Waco. Which is not to say that they weren’t. It’s just that they weren’t as
visibly segregated as they were by then I think all the signs had gone down, and
certainly by ’64 – would have been after the Public Accommodations Act was
passed in Congress – ’64 Civil Rights Act. So there was definitely, and I was
very aware of the fact that there were separate high schools for the black
students. And there was talk about how they are going to integrate these schools.
So there was the…you know… the local school district. (In a whisper….) did
our school district have…our school district must have had a black high school.
It’s a very small school district. Texas has these things they call independent
school districts which tend to be, in some places, quite small. This was a very
small one, it was called “La Vega” two words – independent school district –
and it was on the east side of Waco. It was outside the city limits, Waco had its
own independent school district which covered the Waco city limits. So there
must have been at least one black high school in the La Vega independent
school district. But I don’t have a clear recollection, I certainly couldn’t tell you
the name. But so they were making plans, you know….how are we going to go
about doing this, and my senior year there were a small number of black
students who were integrated into my school. In fact, when my daughter and her
husband were home over Thanksgiving, I pulled out my high school yearbook,
because I think they asked me something about that; and I looked and I think
there were three or four black students in my graduating class. And I would have
told you only one. I didn’t remember that there were three or four, but they
were, I mean their pictures were there so quite clearly that was the case. And
then there were a few more in each of the lower classes, and life must have been
miserable for those kids. It must have been just miserable because they didn’t
have any friends except each other…in the school of something like 400
students. And they did not do a very good job of integrating them into the
school. I don’t think, I don’t believe that any of them were in any of my classes.
And it’s not that there was any tracking going on in the classes, but I was taking
trigonometry, that was kind of advanced math, not everybody took math in their
senior year. And I (whispering – what else did I take in my senior year…) other
than Senior English, everybody took Senior English, and…it’s hard even to
remember now. One of them was in the chorus. I had one period a day that was
high school chorus, and there was one black young woman in the chorus.
Ms. Upadhyava: Is that the one student that you mentioned earlier that you remember?
Ms. Clark: That’s the one I remember, yes, yes.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok
Ms. Clark: But I did… you know, other than the picture of the chorus which was there in
the yearbook, I’m not sure I would have remembered her. But, it was, you
know, I think they were trying to be, as low key as they possibly could
be……and I think in that sense they succeeded. Nobody was protesting,
nobody was boycotting, there wasn’t anything going on of the sort that had
happened that was so awful in Arkansas and Mississippi and Alabama in prior
years. So it was just very quiet in matter of fact. And it was sometime later I
guess I learned that now they were fully integrated and there was no longer any
distinct effort to say we’re gonna have a certain number of black students at La
Vega High School. So La Vega High School became The High School.
Ms. Upadhyava: Do you know if there was any resistance to integration in that school district?
Ms. Clark: I don’t know of any at least at that point. There were certainly
people who were speaking out and saying ‘oh we have to be really
careful about this’, and that’s … that’s sort of what I remember is
people saying that we have to do this carefully so that people
don’t…I don’t know what it is that they wanted to be careful about.
Ms. Upadhyava: (laughs)
Ms. Clark: They didn’t want us white women dating the black men.
Ms. Upadhyava: Sure
Ms. Clark: That was probably the horrors that they all thought in their heads that if oh
no….if they are in school together, they might start forming romantic
attachments and we can’t have that.
Ms. Upadhyava: That would be such… that would be the most horrible thing in the
world! Right?! (Laughs)
Ms. Clark: Absolutely! And and…which why it was surprising to me when I went
back and looked at the pictures in the yearbook and there were actually
some males that they brought in. My recollection would have been that
it was all women in that first year.
Ms. Upadhyava: Really. And they were bused in from other parts of Waco?
Ms. Clark: No, it would have been just within our little school district.
Ms. Upadhyava: Oh just within the school district.
Ms. Clark: So…they probably didn’t have to bus them very far, at all.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok.
Ms. Clark: Because the limits of that school district were quite small. I mean, there were
people who lived out in the country who had to be bused in much farther than
these kids had to be bused in, I’m sure.
Ms. Upadhyava: How big was Waco at that time?
Ms. Clark: It was about 100,000.
Ms. Upadhyava: Oh so it was quite big?
Ms. Clark: Yeah and where the suburb where La Vega school district is was quite smaller
it’s called Bellmead. But I couldn‘t begin to estimate what its population was,
it was just a lot smaller than Waco.
Ms. Upadhyava: So you graduate in May of 1965?
Ms. Clark: Right.
Ms. Upadhyava: Do I have that right?
Ms. Clark: Mhm.
Ms. Upadhyava: And when did you…did you have an idea when you were in high school
what you wanted to do? I know you said you assumed that you would go to
college, but did you have an idea in your mind of the career that you wanted
Ms. Clark: I was thinking about journalism.
Ms. Upadhyava: Okay.
Ms. Clark: I really…you know and as I said I worked on the high school newspaper, and
that was kind of what appealed to me. And I, in fact, started off at a Journalism
School at UT when I started there but it didn’t last very long. I decided that that
really wasn’t for me. So reading, writing, and all of the things that go into a
journalism career was what I had in mind at that time. And I mean, I was just
incredibly fortunate because number one, there was no doubt that I was going to
be admitted to the University of Texas. The admission policy then was that if
you were a valedictorian of a Texas high school then you were automatically in.
Ms. Upadhyava: So you took care of another question I had which is were you valedictorian you
would be admitted no questions asked, right?
Ms. Clark: Yes, and I knew I was gonna be in. I thought about applying to other schools,
and I kind of think now I didn’t apply to other schools, I think I decided that I
knew I could get into UT, and I think I just applied there. I gave some thought
to Rice University but um…, they had just opened to women at that time. And
they were still very much a technical school so engineering and sciences and
math, and that really wasn’t where I wanted to focus. I don’t recall, I mean, we
did a college visit at one point but I think that was because my mother wanted
me to think about Mary Hardin Baylor, which was where my Uncle Leslie, had
Ms. Upadhyava: I was going to ask about Baylor.
Ms. Clark: Baylor, I just…given that my family was really kind of in that place like this
is what I’m gonna do…, I know I made it clear to my parents early on ‘I’m not
going to Baylor, I don’t want to live at home, and I didn’t even apply to
Ms. Upadhyava: Really
Ms. Clark: I know she must have made me visit the campus because I do remember
taking a tour of the campus. But I just, you know…no, I’m not going to
Baylor, that’s that.
Ms. Upadhyava: laughs…
Ms. Clark: …which actually kind of distressed one of my best friends because she had in
mind that she and I should go to school together, and her family wasn’t
prepared to pay for her to be living away from home. So she had to go to
Baylor and she was kind of distressed that I wasn’t gonna do it and I said, you
know, I’m not gonna live at home I’m gonna go away…
Ms. Upadhyava: Laughs…
Ms. Clark: Now all of 100 miles to the University of Texas
Ms. Upadhyava: Still a hundred miles!…laughing…
Ms. Clark: Right! It was good for me and um, and the other thing that I was incredibly
lucky about was that the University of Texas system is very very well
financed from oil land. Now in the late 1800s, one of the biggest oil strikes in
the state, was put in trust for the University of Texas System. They had, when
I was on campus – I don’t know if it’s still there – a working model of the
rocker arm, you know the oil pump which you’ve undoubtedly seen when
you’ve gone to west Texas.
Ms. Upadhyava: Yes.
Ms. Clark: They had one of them on the campus as a memorial. So in-state tuition for
the University of Texas was as close to free as it could possibly be. It crept
up a bit while I was in school there but my last year of law school my total
fees for tuition and all the fee…the mandatory fees for one semester was
Ms. Upadhyava: (laughs and mutters…) Wow!
Ms. Clark: You know…, so what that means is all you had to take care of was your living
expenses and your books. And so, I got a national merit scholarship form the
Air Force, they had a certain number of, at the Air Force foundation that
awarded a certain number of scholarships to National Merit finalists who were
Air Force dependents. The local Air Force base officer’s wives’ club gave me
a very small scholarship, and I had a small scholarship that came from the
University or the state for being a valedictorian in my high school. Those with
a little money from my parents the first few months was enough. I didn’t live
high, I was in a dormitory that was sponsored by the Methodist Church and it
was very reasonably priced. And you know it just didn’t cost very much.
And…and I was really fortunate. So I went through undergraduate school
without incurring any student debt, and for law school I borrowed a sum total
of about $5000 from the state of Texas, which came with a very low interest
rate. And I had it all paid back before I finished my clerkships.
Ms. Upadhyava: (Whispers) Wow!
Ms. Clark: So I just felt incredibly lucky to be in a state that had such a well-financed
public university system. And maybe if I had gone far afield and applied to
Harvard, Stanford or whatever, I might have gotten financial aid which I didn’t
even dream existed. My high school counselor wasn’t well enough informed to
be able to tell me about such things. But I mean it worked out perfectly. I got a
high quality education for almost nothing.
Ms. Upadhyava: Did you like being at UT?
Ms. Clark: I loved UT! Yeah! I was quite .. I mean it was huge, so it was the kind of
school where you have to be a self-starter, or you can just kind of get lost.
Um…but the first two years I was in a small Methodist dormitory with you
know…maybe, a hundred-two hundred young women, and dormitories were
of course segregated by gender in those days, for sure.
Ms. Upadhyava: Yes. And race?
Ms. Clark: You know, I don’t think so. I think… I know, I mean I had close friends
who were identified as Mexican, who were in the dormitory. I don’t
recall there being any sort of division racially visually. University of
Texas did not have a lot of black students in those days, but it did have
Ms. Upadhyava: So it was an integrated University?
Ms. Clark: Yeah. I’m confident of that.
Ms. Upadhyava: How did your parents feel about you moving away? And how did you feel?
Ms. Clark: Ooh… I felt liberated! (Both laugh). I remember in October of my freshman
year, I was on the phone with my parents. It was one pay phone in the
dormitory and you could call home collect, and I was on the phone with my
parents and my father said, “So how about coming home for a visit some
time?” And I thought “visit”? It had not even occurred to me that I ought to go
home and visit my parents.
Ms. Upadhyava: How long was it?
Ms. Clark: And I said ok…. Alright let’s make some nice big plans for a visit. And then
usually I would take the Greyhound Bus and would go back and forth between
Austin and Waco.
Ms. Upadhyava: I was gonna ask…
Ms. Clark: Sometimes they would come pick me up, or they would bring me back to
Austin after I got home on the bus. I mean, you know a hundred miles is
nothing,Greyhound Bus is easy to do.
Ms. Upadhyava: So a hundred miles, yea.
Ms. Clark: Waco is just about a hundred miles from both Dallas and Austin; it is
squarely in the middle.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok.
Ms. Clark: So it was not a hard trip, I didn’t have a car for sure. No way I could
have afforded maintaining a vehicle, with the little bit of incomeresources
that I had, but the Greyhound Bus was cheap.
Ms. Upadhyava: And did they have any…did your parents have any opposition to you
moving? I think we have about 5 more minutes and then, I now you have to –
is it 6:45 you have to end or 6…
Ms. Clark: 6:45.
Ms. Upadhyava: Okay we’ll get over in about 10 minutes. Did your parents have any opposition
to you moving away for college?
Ms. Clark: I know my father wasn’t happy about it, and his theme from then on until he
died was ‘when are you coming back to Waco?’ But he didn’t do anything to
stand in the way, I mean, and I credit him with that. You know, he didn’t say
no, and there was never any kind of an argument where I said I wanna go to
Austin and he said no. He just…he respected my choice so, I know he was not
happy but he was prepared to live with it. And my mother never complained
either, other than the early efforts to persuade me that I should go to Baylor.
Ms. Upadhyava: Baylor…(chuckles..). Did your sister go to college?
Ms. Clark: No she didn’t.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok. Did she…did you have any discussions with her about why she chose
not to go to school? Or why you chose to go to school?
Ms. Clark: No…you know I think it was just that for so long I had been bound in that
direction, that it didn’t surprise anybody around me that I was going to
college. When she graduated from high school I, when she was nearing
graduation, say like for spring of her senior year, um…she wanted to join the
Air Force…and my parents said no. And the only explanation they gave was
that women in the armed services had a reputation for being loose.
Ms. Upadhyava: Laughs quietly…..
Ms. Clark: I think the Air Force would have been fantastic for my sister. You know she
tried to learn to type, she wasn’t very physically coordinated, and she was
never able to type fast enough to be able to do an office job. And she didn’t
really have any specific career ambitions. As it turned out she met her husband
during spring of her senior year and decided to get married, that’s the way she
went. But I think being in the armed services would have been fantastic for
her. And I certainly thought so at the time, partly because of my selfish
thought that she’d be graduating from high school so she should leave the way
I thought big sisters should go away when they graduate from high school.
Ms. Upadhyava: I think we shared that view…coz I have a big sister!
Ms. Clark: Laughs loudly…
Ms. Clark: An idea which I thought was fantastic…but even putting my, taking my head
out of that younger sister-get rid-of the older one phenomenon…
Ms. Upadhyava: Uhuh…
Ms. Clark: …I think…it would have been very good for her. And she never did anything
else until her husband and she divorced in 1975. She had 4 young children, and
she went to work at Burger King, and she worked there until she died in 2011.
And she was obviously a very faithful employee. She was the person who
made the biscuits every morning, and did other things as well. She never drove
a car, she would ride her bicycle to the Burger King every day and work an
early morning shift…you know if you are going to be there to make biscuits by
the time they open…you know she was there by five o’clock every morning.
And that was her life. I think she would have had… she read voraciously. My
nephew and his wife described her apartment at the time that she died, and I
never saw it, but as…there are bookshelves, and there are bookshelves standing
in rows in the middle of rooms, it’s like being in a library. You know there was
just room enough to walk between the bookshelves. And she had one corner
where her chair and the lamp are. And she knows where every book is. She’s
got them all color coded. She’s got them organized. She knows which ones she
has read. And so she spent all of her disposable income on books. And I just
think a wider world would have been fantastic for her. On the other hand then I
wouldn’t have had my nephew and his children which I treasure. But…
Ms. Upadhyava: Hmh…And so she stayed in Waco, for the rest of her life.
Ms. Clark: No no she was in Louisiana.
Ms. Upadhyava: Oh Louisiana. I’m sorry…
Ms. Clark: They moved to Louisiana.
Ms. Upadhyava: That’s where she divorced?
Ms. Clark: Right. And she lived in Louisiana from about…it would have been around
1966-67. She lived there the rest of her life. Various parts of Louisiana but the
longest period of time in some place called Pineville, which is right in the
middle of the state.
Ms. Upadhyava: Let’s talk for just a minute about when you left for Austin. You said you didn’t
come home very much (laughing)
Ms. Clark: Not for a while… (both lightly laugh..)
Ms. Upadhyava: And did you adjust pretty quickly to college?
Ms. Clark: Oh yeah. Absolutely! It was just a lot of fun.
Ms. Upadhyava: And develop a group of friends?
Ms. Clark: Yeah, most of my friends there were people that I knew there in the dormitory
and, I mean…yeah, it was all dormitory friends for the first year or two.
Ms. Upadhyava: What was the ratio of men to women and men to men at UT at that time?
Ms. Clark: Definitely a majority men. But not by a huge amount.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok…
Ms. Clark: I can’t remember precisely but it might have been like one and a half to one or
something like that.
Ms. Upadhyava: Were you in a sorority?
Ms. Clark: No. No. That was not my thing. Not the social scene and besides you
needed to have money to be in the sorority.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok. I have the same reaction by the way when someone asks me if I was in a
sorority in University of Missouri, I say oh not my thing.
Ms. Clark: No, that was a very different scene.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok.
Ms. Clark: In fact, when I arrived at the dormitory, they assigned me a roommate who
was…in…totally involved in rush week. And she and a group of her friends
like 3 or 4 friends spent into the wee hours of the night, every night, in our
room, talking about these various sororities and things. And I wasn’t getting
any sleep, and I was not interested. (Lightly laughs) And fortunately, there was
another young woman in the dorm who had a similar situation, and we got
together and we arranged to swap.
Ms. Upadhyava: Laughs…
Ms. Clark: And my roommate then as a result of that was from Big Spring, which is also
out there in West Texas.
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok…
Ms. Clark: And she and I had a great deal in common. And that was the other group of my
friends in fact that reminds me, the Baptist Student Union, I hung out there a
lot. And so between the people I knew at the dormitory, and the people I knew
at the Baptist Student Union, that really made up my cohort of friends. The few
people that I knew, there were a few of my high school classmates who went to
UT, and I would see them occasionally or on campus. But I wasn’t big on the
social life, and if I was in the dormitory on… all weekend it was a really wasn’t
a big deal for me.
Ms. Upadhyava: So did you go to church regularly in college?
Ms. Clark: I certainly did for the first year or two, and then I think it kind of tapered
Ms. Upadhyava: Ok…Well, let me…let us…I guess wind down although I feel like we’ve
barely scratched the surface today. Um, ok…it’s about 6:44 or so…
Ms. Clark: Ok.