JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Hubert “Hugh” Clark, one of six pallbearers for the funeral of President Kennedy, passed away at the age of 76 on Dec. 1. His wife, Beryl Clark, says he will be remembered as a family man who loved his country.
Clark, who was laid to rest in Johns Creek, spent most of his youth in Paterson, New Jersey and Mamaroneck, New York. He joined the Navy in 1962 at 17 after graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
Initially Clark pursued a career in technology with the military, but when offered a different role in Washington D.C., he accepted. Clark quickly impressed his peers and was elected as honor man of his company. Shortly thereafter, he was asked to join the Presidential Honor Guard. Within months, he had also become a pallbearer in the Navy’s ceremonial unit.
On Nov. 22, 1963, while serving in Washington, Clark was notified that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. Because of his reputation within the ceremonial unit, he was selected as one of six pallbearers representing the U.S. armed forces to guard and carry the president’s casket over the next several days. He was whisked to Andrews Air Force Base to greet Air Force One as it arrived that Friday night from Dallas. There, he helped carry the casket to the waiting ambulance. He spent much of the night at Bethesda Naval Hospital, where the president’s autopsy was performed.
Early the next morning, he guarded the casket as it lay in the East Room.
On Sunday, Clark accompanied the horse-drawn caisson to the Capitol where he helped carry it up the steps, perfectly horizontal despite the incline. He continued his service in the detail as the casket then traveled for funeral services at St. Matthew’s Cathedral on Monday, and from there to Arlington National Cemetery.
Clark often spoke of the rigors of that weekend, working with virtually no sleep on a historic funeral detail with strangers from other branches. He said the attention to detail, to perfection, was on everyone’s mind.
He said he always considered it an honor to have been chosen to represent the Navy as pallbearer, the same branch of service Kennedy had served in World War II.
Clark received numerous awards, including the Medal of Military Merit from the Kennedy family and members of the Kennedy Administration.
In addition to his time in the Navy, Clark also served as a detective for the New York City Police Department. It was during his time home in New York that Hugh met his wife Beryl.
Beryl and Hugh met as they were neighbors in Queens, New York. Hugh moved into the house across the street from her, and she said that is how they got to know each other and became great friends. The two would have been married for 52 years this month. Beryl said she believes that Hugh leaves the legacy of his love of his country and his family.
“He will be remembered for his love of his country,” Beryl said. “He was very proud of his military background and being a veteran. He went all around the country to talk about JFK, but I think he will be remembered most for being a great dad.”
The Clarks moved to Johns Creek about 10 years ago to be close to their daughter, Kelli. Beryl explained that their whole world revolved around their daughter.
Beyond his love of his country and his family, Beryl said Hugh was a great golfer and played often with his friends in Johns Creek. Clark started playing golf at the age of 13 when he worked as a caddy at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York.
Hugh leaves many to mourn him including his wife Beryl, daughter Kelli, brother Apostle James I. Clark, Jr., sisters Mary Pillors, Lois Clark, and Yvette Conyers, mother-in-law Gladys Sampson, sister-in-law Shirley Lorraine Clark, and brothers-in-law Jeff Sampson and Alvin Thomas. Additionally, Hugh had many nieces and nephews and dear friends.