William P. Clark, close friend and aide to Ronald Reagan, died this
past Saturday morning at his ranch in California. His biographer,
Dr. Paul Kengor, stated, in an e-mail sent later that same day,
He died at the ranch so dear to his heart, surrounded by the family so dear to his heart.
had been ailing for a long timea long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
He began receiving hospice care about six months ago. It’s amazing that
he survived as long as he did. Typical of Bill, he kept hanging on and
fighting and fighting. We expected him to go, but for some reason he
still felt like he needed to stay in this world and do something more.
He was always thinking of what he and Ronald Reagan called “The DP”The
Born October 23, 1931 in Oxnard, California, Bill Clark was 81 years old. He now joins his beloved wife, Joan.
funeral Mass will take place this Wednesday, August 14, at 9:30 AM at
Chapel Hill, the lovely church that Bill built himself on his ranch
property outside of Paso Robles, California.
were as close and important to Ronald Reagan as Bill Clark. And beyond
his impact on Reagan and the Cold War, Bill Clark was simply a wonderful
In 2007, Kengor, with co-author Patricia Clark Doerner, released the biography, The Judge: William P. Clark,
Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press). In the Introduction, the authors wrote:
Clark has come full circle. He started life as a young man on a
California ranch, and now closes it as a man in his seventies on a
ranch, where he proudly struggles with the progression of
disease. "God gave Parkinson's to such saints as John Paul II and my
he said, "and now he has gotten around to the sinners, such as
These sunset years are a time for reflecting on the past, as well as
for accepting what lies ahead. Though not without some regrets,
Clark may be allowed a proper amount of satisfaction in his public
record. During the Sacramento years, Clark was appointed Governor
Reagan's chief of staff at a time of scandal and crisis and helped
right the ship of state. When he thought his work done, he decided
was time to return to his ranch. The Governor then named him superior
court judge, later elevated him to the court of appeal and, finally,
appointed him justice of the California Supreme Court. After Reagan
ascended to the presidency, he requested that Clark go with him to
Washington, where Clark became his deputy secretary of state, then
national security advisor and, lastly, secretary of the interior.
Official Reagan biographer Edmund Morris dubbed Clark the "most
impressive" advisor in the Reagan White House and "the most important
and influential person in the first administration". An August 1983
Time magazine cover story entitled "The Man with the
Ear", informed the public that next to Reagan, Clark was the "most
powerful man in the White House", so close to Reagan, and so loyal
to and trusted by the President, that White House staff called him
"He was always there when my Dad needed him", says the former
President's oldest son, Michael. "He was very important to my dad's
And their relationship was more than political; they were good friends."
President Reagan himself told the press that Clark was "one of my
most trusted and valued advisers." Again, "no one has given me more
faithful service above and beyond the call of duty."  When Reagan had
a tough task, he called upon Clark, his troubleshooter, his
man.  As photographs illustrate, Bill Clark was often literally at
right side, and always trying to fulfill the adage that he coined, "Let
be Reagan." No one was more inclined to let Reagan act on his
Nowhere was this more true than in determining policy in regard
to the Soviet Union. During two critical years as Reagan's national
security advisor, Clark helped lay the groundwork for the
administration's remarkable effort to undermine Soviet communism and win
Cold War. Another cover story at the time, in the New York Times
Magazine, noted that Clark was not only "the most influential
foreign-policy figure in the Reagan administration", but also "the
chief instrument" in confronting Soviet influence in the world. The
two of them, often alone, met to discuss some of the boldest and
successful actions of the entire Cold War. As the New York Times'
White House correspondent reported, colleagues observed Clark returning
from his private meetings with Reagan and prepared themselves
for the "important decisions" to come.
In a 2007 interview with Ignatius Insight, Kengor highlighted Clark's humility, faith, and loyalty:
Ignatius Insight: Who is
William P. Clark and why did you co-author a book about his life?
Paul Kengor: William P. "Bill" Clark, who is known as "The Judge"
because of his years of service in the California court system, including the
California Supreme Court, is a terrific story that is required reading for
every Catholic, not to mention non-Catholics as well, of course. Catholics
especially, however, need to know that this man, in my opinion, was the single
most important Catholic in the fall of the Soviet Union, next to only Pope John
Paul II. That's quite a statement, but it is easy to defend.
Readers will need to read the
book to learn why, but I will give one example of his enormous impact on the
end of the Cold War: Ronald Reagan, as we now know, had a deliberate policy to
undermine atheistic Soviet communism and win the Cold War. That policy was laid
out in several crucial NSDDsNational Security Decision
Directivesthat have since been declassified by the federal government
and are now available at the Reagan Library. These NSDDs reveal an unmistakable
attempt to undermine and change the Soviet system. I will quote just two of
Here's NSDD-32, which
described this Reagan administration objective toward the USSR: "To contain and
reverse the expansion of Soviet control and military presence throughout the
world.... [T]o contain and reverse the expansion of Soviet influence worldwide."
Another was NSDD-75, which
stated this similar intention: "To contain and over time reverse Soviet
expansionism.... This will remain the primary focus of U.S. policy toward the
USSR. To promote ... the process of change in the Soviet Union toward a more
pluralistic political and economic system in which the power of the privileged
ruling elite is gradually reduced."
These were grand objectives
that the establishment and the experts judged utterly impossible, and yet
precisely that occurred before the decade ended.
As I learned when I first
read these extraordinary documents at the Reagan Librarysmoking-gun
evidence, a paper trail showing that this was the actual Reagan administration
objectiveI was stunned to learn that they were all done in the brief
two-year window that Bill Clark served as Reagan's national security adviser.
Clark oversaw the development of these NSDDs. In fact, he oversaw the
development of over 100 of these NSDDs. Clark was the guy at the head of the
Reagan railroad who laid the track to Cold War victory, and then silently rode
of into the sunset and didn't talk about what he dida humility derived
from his upbringing and strong Catholic faith.
The book is filled with
policy specifics that flowed from that objective, from Clark shepherding
everything from Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) to the president's
covert plan to bankrupt the USSR through economic warfare.
were Clark's top accomplishments during his time in Washington, DC in the
Paul Kengor: Winning the Cold War. Beyond that, he was always
there for Ronald Reagan as the president's sure-thing, as his most trusted,
dependable adviseras his constant troubleshooter always ready for
deployment on the most sensitive mission. Reagan could count on Clark do always
do his job and to complete the most sensitive mission in complete confidence,
without blabbing about it. In the book, we disclose for the first time the
extraordinary April 1983 covert mission to save the South American country of
Suriname from becoming a Soviet-Cuban proxy state. Clark and crew kept this
quiet for over twenty years, talking only now. Historians need to learn about
this. This is for the history books. We lay out all the details in the book.
were some of the challenges involved in writing this biography?
Paul Kengor: My biggest challenge was getting this humble man to
tell this significant story, which is also simply a good story about a man and
his spiritual journey, aside from the historical significance of what he and
Reagan did together. I knew this was a wonderful story in all aspects. I
finally prevailedwith the indispensable help of Pat Clark Doerner, a
God-send on this projectonly by consistently appealing to Bill Clark's
sense of duty, duty to the Reagan record and legacy and duty to history.
Read the entire interview.