Walter Clark (Finding Aid)

Walter Clark

1928 -

Favorite Color: Purple

Favorite Food: Lobster

Favorite Time of Year: Spring

Favorite Vacation Spot: Hawaii

Interview Length: 135 minutes

Interview Date(s): December 21, 2000

Interview Location(s): The HistoryMakers, Chicago, Illinois


Walter Clark starts by reaching back into some specifics on his family history. His grandparents and parents are introduced and their pasts described. The Clark family relocated from Athens, Georgia to Carbondale, Illinois early in Walter's life. There, he attended a segregated school and speaks on some of the daily discrimination he experienced. Walter's father, John Clark is discussed numerous times, and in great detail. John Clark proved to be a huge influence on Walter's life. The stories that involve Walter and John really give deep insight into why Walter Clark was so successful in life. He then moves into his college days where his brother, John Quincy Clark, Jr. starts to make a more significant presence. We find out that Walter and his brother did nearly everything together, including attending the same colleges.

Walter Clark's college years took him, and his brother, to Los Angeles, California and back to Carbondale, Illinois. In junior college in Compton, California, Clark played football for the school. His travels to other parts of the state and country with the team proved that blacks, athletes included, were not accepted in many public places. Upon graduating from Southern Illinois University, Clark entered the job market and had very little luck finding work in accounting. After a string of jobs where he did everything from build radios to work for a mail order company, he met an Office Manager at Illinois Federal Savings and Loan and through this connection he was hired. But after less than six months there he was drafted by the U.S. Army and was shipped off to Korea. While in Korea, he learned some valuable life lessons but was certain that the military was not his life's calling. After a two year run in the Army Clark found himself back in Chicago working towards his Masters degree at DePaul Universit

Walter Clark's career starts to blossom with First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Chicago. After seven years of being underappreciated, new management comes in and realizes Clark's abilities. He solidifies his importance in the Association by creating a new way to deal with the bond business and becomes nationally known for his abilities. Clark makes further strides in the savings and loan industry with the mortgage back pass-through in 1978, another profitable idea which his employers loved. Besides making money, Walter Clark is also successful in helping fellow African Americans find employment. In the mid 1970s Clark establishes that officers will not get their full bonuses unless they increase their minority hiring. Beyond the savings and loan business Clark is active in many other professional and social programs. The Royal Coterie of Snakes was a social club, in particular, about which Clark goes into detail and discusses with pride the organization's positive aspects.

After a quick history of Boule, a men's social club to which he belongs, Walter Clark discusses his marriage, children and the time away from them spent at work. The conversation then moves to Clark's unfortunate experience with CitiBank as he explains how the company wanted to replace him to bring in a 'CitiBanker', someone who had prior experience with the company. As Clark's abilities and previous success are not taken into consideration, he decides to sue CitiBank, but later changes his mind against it. Next, Clark takes jobs with Bear Stearns as well as the Chicago Transit Authority. At the CTA Clark is immersed in disorganization and confusion and does his best to remedy the situation by hiring new, more qualified, employees. But, when Mayor Eugene Sawyer comes into office, he is unhappy with the removal of some employees to whom he specifically gave jobs. Clark sticks to his decisions and decides not to rehire anyone and quits his position. He then continues with his job in the private sector wi

Walter Clark talks of growing up in Carbondale, Illinois and how the small town atmosphere kept him humble. He tells a story of how he's been able to help African Americans move ahead in the workforce. He then speaks of wanting his legacy to be as someone who opened the path for others in the business world. Following are photos spanning Walter Clark's life.

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