Looking back: Through the life and mind of James Clark
Out of the more than 300 jury trials, James Clark has worked on in his many years as a lawyer, the one that continues to haunt him to this is day is the unsolved murder of a 85 year old widow in Davis.
An officer had been called to do a welfare check on the victim after no one had seen her all day. Her neighbors grew worried when she didn’t come out to check her mailbox at 4 p.m. like she usually does. After finding a bloody palm print on a mattress, the officer walked out of the house and called for backup and Clark, who was the District Attorney at the time.
By the time Clark had gotten to the scene, two police units and a small crowd of curious onlookers standing in the yard. Clark found the bloody palm print the officer mentioned in the hall leading to the master bedroom. The suspect had reached their hand between the two mattresses and flipped the top one over, probably searching for a hidden item Clark guessed.
Clark describes the moment when he found the victim as a scene right out of the Manson murders. She was lying on the bathroom floor covered in blood. Beside the victim’s body was a three legged stool covered in blood, human hair and human tissue. The woman had received so many blows that her face was unrecognizable.
“I never solved the case,” Clark said in his book. ”Even with the assistance of the O.S.B.I, it’s forensic team and some help from the authorities, I never got there. Even a reward from the Oklahoman seeking information about the murder and offering a tipster $5,000 didn’t help.”
Born in Grant, Oklahoma in a railroad section house, James Clark worked as a lawyer for over 50 years. His parents were illiterate and constantly stressed to their five children the importance of getting an education. Growing up, Clark wanted a profession where he could support his family and serve people in an honorable way.
He became interested in the idea of being a lawyer in the eight grade when a prominent lawyer came to speak to his class during graduation
“He spoke about the roles of lawyers in the jury system, and that our system is unique,” Clark said. “I was inspired and thought, ‘I’d like to be a part of that.’ I later served as his co-counsel and represented him when he faced disbarment proceedings. I successfully defended him in that case.”
Clark fulfilled his parents’ wishes of their children getting an education and received a bachelor’s degree from The University of Oklahoma in 1963, a law degree from Oklahoma City University in 1967 and a MBA from Oklahoma City University in 1985.
After receiving his law degree, Clark was hired as an associate by a title attorney in Ardmore. His first law job was defending a court-appointed client charged with felony murder. The 23-year old perpetrator was accused of robbing a grocery store run by an elderly couple. After stealing $200, the perpetrator shot the male store owner. He was shot by the female store owner before he could escape and was later taken to the hospital. Clark says it was an open and shut case.
In August 1970, Clark was elected District Attorney and served as the DA for Carter, Love, Marshall, Johnston and Garvin county for five years. Despite the disappointment he still feels for not solving the murder in Davis, Clark believes being the district attorney was the most exciting job he has ever had.
“It was terribly exciting and satisfying since you are serving the community doing important work to keep them safe from criminals,” Clark said.
Outside of his work as a lawyer, Clark also worked as president and CEO of IMTEC. IMTEC manufactured and sold more than 600 dental products such as surgical tools, dental implants, bone and tissue regeneration products and orthodontic implants to general dentists, oral surgeons, periodontists and prosthodontic specialists nationwide and in 47 other countries. Clark continued working as the CEO of IMTEC until he retired in 2010 after the company was sold.
For Clark, retirement involves a lot of reading and writing. From a young age, Clark was constantly reading, and his mother encouraged him to become a writer. He has written and published three books, “Reflection On A Time - Growing Up in Southeast Oklahoma,” “A Journey Through the Mind of A Lawyer” and “The Scales of Justice” since entering retirement and plans to keep writing.