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In Memory Of Our Poets

Thornton Clark (1937-2022) - Class Of 1955 VIEW PROFILE

Thornton Clark, born in Montgomery on August 8, 1937, passed away in his home in Montgomery on June 21, 2022. He is survived by his beloved wife, Pat Clark, his beloved Westie, Condi, and first cousin, Ann Clark Diller of Medford, Oregon, and first cousins, once removed Griffin Doster Fry of Atlanta and Phillip Jelley of New York City. Parents Eva Mae and Thornton Clark, sister Carolyn Clark, and first cousin Juliette Persons Doster preceded him.

Thornton graduated from Lanier High School in Montgomery in 1955 and Harvard College in 1959. He majored in government, primarily the U.S. Constitution and history, and politics has remained one of his major interests ever since. He had always wanted to be an elected official but realized he was much too conservative for Massachusetts and far from conservative enough for Alabama.

While a Vice President of Boston's State Street Bank in the late sixties and early seventies, he was charged with selecting the first country and then the city in which the bank was to have its first foreign office. He was amused that the bank now has offices in 23 countries and several offices in the major cities of some of those countries. While at the bank, he co-founded Heritage Travel, which became the first travel agency in the country to specialize in business travel and the first to utilize airline reservation systems. Heritage served many of the country's largest corporations, several cabinet-level departments of the U.S. government in D.C. (including, unfortunately, the I.R.S.), and many leading universities throughout the country. Heritage grew to include 151 locations from coast to coast, becoming the sixth largest travel agency in the country.

Heritage founded The Woodside Group of Travel Agencies, which was comprised of the top commercial agency in countries throughout the U.S., South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. This contributed lot of places to the list of more than one hundred countries in which Thornton traveled. Woodside offices worldwide were served by a very-complex Reservations Center in Boston that used 18 different airline, hotel, and car rental reservation systems and had to be open 24/7 without exception.

Heritage merged with Crimson Travel to become Thomas Cook, which at the time was one of the largest travel agencies with offices worldwide. As Senior Vice President of Sales, his specialty was taking large commercial accounts away from American Express, so when Cook was sold to American Express, he could see the handwriting on the wall and retired.

Thornton was an avid snow skier, having ski houses in Vermont and later in New Hampshire, skiing on mountains on five continents, even Africa, and serving as president of the Chamois Ski Club that organized trips to many major ski areas on four continents. Thornton was also an avid sailor, having raced in numerous events, served as president of the beautiful International One-Design Class for ten years, and finished fifth in their World Championships twice, once racing in San Francisco Bay and once in the Firth of Forth, at Edinburgh, Scotland.

He and his wife sailed the coast of Maine and the British Virgin Islands many times, throughout the beautiful islands of southwestern Thailand, the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, all of the islands of the Caribbean south to Grenada, and the Atlantic from Jost Van Dyke due north to Bermuda.

Upon retirement, Thornton and Pat lived aboard their 55-foot sloop, "Eagle," for a year and a half, sailing more than 12,000 miles, usually with just the two of them aboard. It was a beautiful experience. While living for nine years on Skidaway Island southeast of Savannah, Thornton belonged to the Oglethorpe Club, served as President of the Savannah Symphony, and founded and served as president of the Harvard Club of Savannah.

In his old hometown of Montgomery, he served as president of the Vaughn Meadows Neighborhood Association, spearheading the drive to raise money for the beautiful landscaping, sign, and flagpole in the four medians of Fieldcrest Drive just south of Vaughn Road. He also served several terms as president of the Montgomery Art Guild and chaired several major shows of southeastern artists in the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. He was instrumental in the founding of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, using his first-hand knowledge of the Tensaw delta to map the best kayak route to the Gulf.

Thornton's second book, "Heads or Tales," shared 256 of his unusual stories, such as he was caught in the middle of a huge Communist-led anti-American riot in Turin, Italy, was in an elevator in a 26-story New York hotel when the cables broke, and the car ended up in the sub-basement and was in an airplane that ran out of gas. He had dinner with people that ranged from Richard Branson and Bill Marriott to T.S. Eliot and King Idi Amin. Thornton's third book, "Money Really Does Grow On Trees," was focused on the 2020 presidential election, and the fourth, "What If," was about the game-changing Georgia Senatorial Elections in January 2021, predicting the two Senate wins by Democrats.

As a result of all his interests, Thornton belonged to many clubs. For boating, he belonged to Corinthian Yacht Club, the Eastern Yacht Club (both in Marblehead, Massachusetts), the Charles River Yacht Club in Cambridge, Mass., and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. For tennis, he belonged to Boston's Longwood Cricket Club and Bermuda's Coral Beach Club. For squash, he belonged to Boston's Union Boat Club and the Tennis and Racquet Club. For golf, he belonged to The Landings Club on Skidaway Island, southeast of Savannah, and the Montgomery Country Club. In college, he was a member of S.A.E. and the Fox Club and subsequently a member of the Harvard Faculty Club.

He was very lucky to have stayed single for 34 hours shy of 52 years, during which time he dated many women and would have been paying alimony to several had he not waited until he found the right one. Pat, living in Dallas, represented the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo at an annual symposium Thornton had organized and was moderating in New York City. They met at the reception for out-of-town guests the night before the symposium, and their first date was at the U.S. Open Tennis the next night. As the old saying goes, he looked and saw "a stranger across a crowded room," and those of you old enough know the rest of the lyrics from "South Pacific."

In this most important aspect of life, Thornton was extremely lucky. There is an old story that men try to find a woman who can cook as well as their mother; Thornton found one who was a much better cook than his mother. And she has two master's degrees; Thornton had none.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Anderson Rogers Foundation, the Montgomery County Historical Society, or the Montgomery Art Guild would be much appreciated.

A family and friends visitation for Thornton will be held Friday, July 22, 2022, from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM at St. John's Episcopal Church, 113 Madison Ave., Montgomery, AL 36104, followed by a celebration of life memorial service at 10:30 AM.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.Leak-MC.com for the Clark family.


Click here to see Thornton's last Profile entry.