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William Clark, former Reagan security adviser, dead at 81
William P. Clark, a national security adviser to President Reagan and Interior secretary, died Saturday after a battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 81.
Mr. Clark, a former California Supreme Court judge, became one of Reagan's most trusted confidants, serving as deputy secretary of state (1981-1982), national security adviser (1982-1983), and Interior secretary (1983-1985).
He returned to his native California after serving in Washington. His wife, Joan, died in 2009.
Former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, now a Heritage Foundation resident scholar, spoke of his friend:
"Bill Clark was a devout man of faith, a great patriot and a close friend. He devoted his life to the service of others and will be remembered for his outstanding contributions to his community and his country.
"Bill served Ronald Reagan for over a quarter of a century as a public official, adviser and friend. He was a key figure in formulating and leading United States foreign policy during the president's administration, and was instrumental in developing the strategy that led to winning the Cold War.
"During the 1970s, Bill Clark distinguished himself as an excellent judge, serving on the bench of California's Superior Court, Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court. He was widely recognized for his dedication to the Constitution and the rule of law."
Oliver North, Reagan's counterterrorism director, said: "Bill Clark was Ronald Reagan's best friend, closest confidant and most trusted adviser when Reagan was California governor and then president of the United States.
"No matter the crisis, and there were many during his tenure as President Reagan's deputy secretary of state, national security adviser and finally secretary of the interior, Judge Clark was unflappable — the man the president called first and last when tough decisions had to be made — from the Gulf of Sidra crisis to the Falklands War to the suicide-bombing deaths of 241 U.S. servicemen. Mr. Clark was the only member of the Reagan administration so close to — and trusted — by the president as to speak for him without prior consultation, when circumstances warranted it.
"Lots of people in the State Department didn't know how close British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Reagan were," Mr. North continued. "So one day Secretary of State Al Haig called Clark to demand what Thatcher didn't want — shuttle diplomacy between Buenos Aires and London — and that if Haig didn't have his way on this, Haig would resign.
"Clark simply said, 'Al, we're going to miss you. The president accepts your resignation,'" Mr. North recalled.
Veteran GOP presidential campaign strategist Charles Black said, "Judge Clark was a man of great accomplishment for the conservative movement in his own right, but his loyal support of Ronald Reagan through thick and thin contributed greatly to President Reagan's success."
Added Faith Whittlesey, former Reagan adviser and ambassador to Switzerland:
"Bill Clark was Ronald Reagan's best friend and was the great unsung hero of the Cold War. He faithfully and effectively carried out Ronald Reagan's policies within the government in the face of constant opposition inside the White House, in the agencies, and in the Washington establishment.
"Bill Clark championed two issues above all others: the defeat of Marxism-Leninism and the sanctity of human life. He was a man of great faith, unfailing courtesy, and high intellect. Ronald Reagan loved and deeply respected Bill Clark with good reason."
Mr. Meese best summed up Mr. Clark's life:
"Through all his hard work and many accomplishments, Bill was always a devoted family man to his late wife, Joan, and to his five children and many grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by his many friends, and his life is appreciated by so many people who benefited from his kindness to them and from his service to God and our nation."
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About the Author
Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.
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