With a lifelong interest in politics, John G. Clark of Easthampton, Massachusetts worked on a number of campaigns before running for office himself. He ran for state senator in 1958, but lost in the Democratic primary. Two years later he ran again, this time for state representative of the 3rd Hampshire District, and won. Clark served in the State House of Representative for eight years until he was appointed clerk of the district court in Northampton and chose not to run for reelection.
While this collection is small, it is packed with campaign materials, letters, position statements, speeches, and press releases that together offer a good sense of the political climate in Massachusetts during the 1960s, especially issues of local concern for Hampshire County. Letters from four young neighbors written while serving in Vietnam provide a personal account of the war.
The collection is open for research.
Background on John G. Clark
John G. Clark's colorful life began on February 26, 1902 in Northampton, Massachusetts. His wife, Ruth Miller Clark was born in 1902 in Easthampton; like her husband, she was raised in Western Massachusetts. John and Ruth married just as the Great Depression commenced; their only child- a son- John P. Clark was born in 1930. During the early Depression years, Clark worked in his insurance business and attended law school at night, but this small family- like so many others- faced economic hardships, which led to John losing his business.
World War II saw the Clark's through many changes; the most significant being the purchase of the dairy farm at 79 Holyoke Street in 1940. While running the farm, both John and Ruth spent some time working at the Springfield Armory during the war, which served as their contribution to the war effort. Their main focus, however, was always the dairy farm; Ruth kept all of the financial records along with every inventory needed. Together, John and Ruth worked seamlessly to run the farm while raising their son.
Their only child, John P. Clark (fondly referred to as "Jack Jr.") was the recipient of all their love and support. Great attention was paid to his education, evidenced by the report cards, letters, speeches, and school programs that they preserved. As a young boy, Jack Jr. attended Easthampton elementary school and Easthampton High School before finishing out his secondary education at Williston Academy between 1947 and 1949. He went on to serve in the Korean War as part of the United States Air Force, and spent time on different bases in Texas and California in addition to serving overseas in Okinawa, Japan. Throughout 1954-55 Jack Jr. remained in close contact with his parents; a large amount of correspondence relating the goings-on in the affair force and at home in Easthampton has been preserved.
While Jack Jr. served in the Air Force, life in Easthampton underwent changes. The dairy farm needed to be closed down after the herd became infected with disease. After this, John worked as a milkman for H.P. Hood & Sons Milk Company; series three of this collection houses a photograph of a group of milkmen. Series two features some letters from this company; one in particular that congratulates Mr. Clark on being the "top wholesale salesman on Egg Nogg sales" in his branch. Meanwhile, Ruth went back to office work at the Springfield Armory. Though they were busy, John and Ruth always had Jack on their minds while he remained overseas.
John's political career began in 1960 when he ran for, and was elected to the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, representing the third Hampshire County District. He ran on the platform of providing full representation for his constituents; meaning that he would make himself available to the public and assist them in any way in which he was able. He continued this idea throughout his three terms. One of the ways he provided this -- full representation -- included having office hours from nine in the morning to twelve in the afternoon on three Saturdays a month; each Saturday was spent in one of the three towns where he had office located. His dedication also shown through in his correspondence with a few local young men serving in Vietnam in 1966. The letters offered words of encouragement in between relating some of the goings-on back home. Series one also contains a separate folder holding a huge amount of correspondence between Clark and his constituents. People wrote and asked for his help, or brought a town issue to his attention. Either John or Ruth would try to respond to each constituent. During his three terms, Ruth worked tirelessly as his secretary; answering and returning calls, typing his correspondence and keeping his records in order. Together, these two people formed one of the hardest-working teams.
During his time in office, John formed a close friendship with Lorenzo Jeffers, the chief of the Wampanoag Tribe. When John first went to the legislature, he heard a speech by a member of this tribe and that moment sparked his interest in helping the tribe in any way possible; he worked ardently for the tribe to gain the land necessary to build the Gay Head Museum in Gay Head, MA on Martha's Vineyard. John was even inducted into the Wampanoag Tribe as a honorary chief. Clark remained friends with Jeffers, even after his last term in office.
John choose not to run for reelection in 1968, and instead moved on to serve as the clerk of the Hampshire County district court. He enjoyed his time in that position because of his keen interest in the law. Unfortunately, in December of 1968, Clark suffered a stroke which ended his job at the court; he was never able to return to work. During his rehabilitation he documented the stroke and his recovery through letters and journal-esque pieces, which can be found in series two of this collection. He refused to remain on the sidelines, and used this writing time to regain use of his hands.
John G. Clark passed away in May 1972 at age 70. He left behind a legacy of full representation for his constituents, and is remembered as being a representative whom the people knew they could always count on.
The collection is divided into three series: Political, Personal and Biographical, and Photographs. The political information ranges from ca. 1960 to 1968 and contains correspondence, campaign materials, newspaper clippings and articles and bills, along with material relating to the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies. The personal and biographical content ranges from ca. 1942 to 1982. The material includes letters and documents from a couple of Clark's employers such as H.P. Hood and Sons Milk Company and The Springfield Armory. All the material relating to John P. Clark's education, which includes; report cards, reading lists, speeches, graduation bulletins and all of the correspondence and rules for the Invitation to College radio contest Jack Jr. took part in. All of the correspondence during Jack's time in the air force between him and his parents from the years 1953 to 1955, along with postcards, foreign currency, certificates, memorandums, inventories and travel records are located within this series. The financial records, animal inventories and blue relating to the dairy farm, as well as the family's deed to purchase their house and the rest of their financial records can be found in series two. Many of the extended family members' obituaries, and Jack Jr.'s account of his family history are located here as well. The photographs in the third series are varied. They include snapshots, taken ca. 1953 to 1955, of different military bases as well as shorts of Okinawa, Japan. Photos of the dairy farm, the family home, as well as random family snapshots can be found within this series.
Acquired from Adrienne Clark, 2003; addition in 2010.
Processed by Amy Hindle, 2012.
Cite as: John G. Clark Papers (MS 499). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.