How is it possible to do justice in remembering a remarkable woman who lived such an outstanding life as a patriot, an educator, and as a student of history and current affairs, and who further touched so many individuals in positive ways during her lifespan of 98 years through her determination, courage, and steadfastness? This individual was Elizabeth Allin Clarke, a resident of Lake Forest, Illinois, who passed away at her home on July 2, 2016.
Born in 1918 in Omaha, Nebraska, Elizabeth was the daughter of General and Mrs. George R. Allin. General Allin served during World War I. In her youth, Elizabeth qualified as an Army ambulance driver. Elizabeth and her late husband, Edwin Richards Clark II, were proud members of a multi-generation military. Throughout their 62 years of marriage, both Elizabeth and Ed were widely known in the conservative movement through their participation in many organizations, among them The Heartland Institute and Eagle Forum.
The Heartland Institute, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois, hosted an event in celebration of the life of Elizabeth Allin Clarke on Saturday, August 20. You can watch the event, held in collaboration with Alton, Illinois-based Eagle Forum, in the player at the top of this post or at this link. Elizabeth’s rich life was shared through a series of interviews in 1996 featuring Elizabeth and friend Joseph A. Morris, brief remarks from long-time friends, and an exhibit of photographs and other artifacts gathered together from Elizabeth Clarke’s extensive Archives. Those in attendance were privileged to meet two of Elizabeth’s three children who offered up remembrances of their “mum-mum” – daughter Margie Clarke Warden and husband Col. John M. Warden II and son Edwin Richards Clarke III. Another daughter, Peggy Clarke Griem, was unable to attend.
Listen to Elizabeth, age 96, being interviewed by friend Joe Morris at the Heartland Institute:
Part 1 can be heard here: https://www.heartland.org/multimedia/podcasts/2014/07/02/elizabeth-clark-96-years-young
Part 2 can be heard here: https://www.heartland.org/multimedia/podcasts/elizabeth-clark-96-years-young-part-2
Recollections of Elizabeth Offered by Friends
Heartland Institute President Joe Bast expressed how truly honored he was to have been able to help organize this celebration of the life of an American patriot, Elizabeth Allin Clarke, a remarkable person in many ways. Mr. Bast, realizing there were people in attendance who knew Elizabeth better than he did, focused on how he got to know Elizabeth, further making three observations on what we can all learn from Elizabeth’s example.
Elizabeth and her husband, Ed, were among the very first conservative activists Joe met after The Heartland Institute was launched 32 years ago, in 1984. Elizabeth and Ed quickly became members and donors, and attended virtually all Heartland events. Often, they would bring literature from other organizations to share with Heartland members – often from Eagle Forum, Elizabeth’s favorite group – and take Heartland literature to share at events hosted by other groups.
Joe reflected how Elizabeth and Ed were seemingly tireless in their efforts to spread the word about American exceptionalism, the communist and socialist threat, and the need for a strong defense of American freedom. They were “happy warriors,” and seldom had a cross word to say about an ally, but they were willing to be politically incorrect and call out the nation’s enemies, by name, when necessary.
Following are the three observations made by Joe Bast on what we can all learn from Elizabeth’s life:
First, Elizabeth and Ed were incredibly brave and willing to sacrifice. They were courageous: Speaking out against communism and socialism in the 1960s and 1970s was not popular. People who warned – accurately, as later documentation would show – of communist infiltration of the U.S. government were mocked and ridiculed. There was no Internet, no Fox News, no Rush Limbaugh to legitimize the conservative point of view. It was lonely and hard work, but Elizabeth and Ed did it. For that we have to be eternally grateful.
Second, Elizabeth and Ed bridged the early conservative movement and the conservative and libertarian movements of today. Three or even four generations have passed since they began their advocacy, yet Elizabeth was actively educating and persuading activists 60 and even 70 years younger than she was just days before she died. She weathered changes in administrations and political party leadership, disappointments and victories, and mastered the new technologies used to get the message out. Elizabeth showed how one generation of political activists can help the next generation succeed.
The third and final observation was how Elizabeth served as a role model for all of us in the conservative and libertarian movements today. She made a difference in the world, she actually changed the world. Very few people – fewer than one in a million – can say they did that in their lives. We all want to be remembered as good spouses, good parents, and good friends … but a few of us aspire to be remembered as champions of ideas that benefited millions and even billions of people. Elizabeth aspired to do that, and she accomplished it. She will be remembered as the person to helped preserve American freedom when it was under attack and had few friends. She will be remembered as the bridge between one generation of conservative activists and three succeeding generations. And she will be remembered as a true American patriot.
Joe’s final remark is worth pondering. “How will we be remembered? Will there be an event like this one here today, memorializing our lives when we pass on? Elizabeth’s life shows us the way. I hope some of us, ideally all of us, follow her path.
Joe Morris of Morris & De La Rosa recalled how, for decades Elizabeth and Edwin Clarke, Jr., were everywhere together, attending nearly every meeting, conference, symposium, rally, and party that helped further the cause of freedom anywhere in the Chicago area. They were stalwart activists in, and supporters of, such organizations as Americans United for Life, Eagle Forum, The Heartland Institute, the Lincoln Legal Foundation, the National Federation of Independent Business, the United Republican Fund of Illinois, and countless other civic, community, policy, and political organizations.
Joe Morris remembered how Elizabeth and Ed took a special interest in encouraging the education and activism of young people, and recalled an instance when he attended a meeting of teen-aged and 20-something Young Republicans who were supporting the candidacy of Ronald Reagan in the Illinois primary of 1976 and, there, sitting quietly and supportively among the kids, were the 60-something Clarkes.
After Ed’s death in the early 2000s, Joe recounted how Elizabeth was not seen so often in person at meetings, but she adapted quickly and smoothly to modern information technology and became even more visible and communicative via the Internet. Joe reported receiving daily e-mail messages from Elizabeth, often starting early in the morning after she had awakened and begun her global daily survey of news, often starting with the on-line edition of the South China Morning Post. Elizabeth wanted to make sure that her friends and those she mentored were kept up to speed on important news and information, especially on information that might not be covered fully, fairly, or at all in mainstream American media. Elizabeth also used her daily messages and telephone calls to offer encouragement and consolation, especially in difficult times.
Joe Morris further observed how, beginning as a young woman in a military family, Elizabeth lived and traveled all over the country and the world. Joe recalled from an oral history he took from her — which is archived in the on-line podcast library of the Heartland Institute — an early and eye-opening visit that she paid, in the company of her mother, to China in the years running up to World War II. She encountered, at that time in her young life, various customs, including sexual practices quite foreign to her upbringing. The experiences broadened her understanding of the human condition, and led her to a stronger devotion to the bedrock that makes America an exceptional civilization: A commitment to an open society, and a definition of American-ness that depends, above all, on fidelity to the principles of the American Declaration of Independence and a sincere willingness to defend the Constitution of the United States.
Joe Morris described a few of the constitutional principles that were so important to Elizabeth, including the protections of private property and the enterprise system that are built into the Constitution. He described how, over the entirely of her life, she was forever lecturing family members, friends, neighbors, and nearly everyone she encountered, on American constitutional principles and the virtues of the free enterprise system. In fact, Elizabeth telephoned Joe Morris shortly after deliverymen had brought to her home and installed there the hospital-style bed in which she would die just a few weeks later, and as they worked she quizzed them on these principles and taught them to take pride in their labor as free men participating in capitalism, the most moral of economic systems.
Phyllis Schlafly, founder and chairman of the board of Eagle Forum (Phyllis and Elizabeth were “heart” friends to each other) sent a written tribute, read by Nancy Thorner, honoring her long friendship with Elizabeth in which she praised Elizabeth for her work and dedication in support of Eagle Forum. Elizabeth’s involvement in stopping the antics of the renegade “Gang of Six” Eagle Forum women, who are still trying to wrest control from Phyllis Schlafly through lawsuits of unknown funding of the Eagle Forum Board which controls the money, only ended with Elizabeth’s death. Following are selected passages from Phyllis’s tribute honoring her “heart” friend, Elizabeth:
“Whenever anyone asks me about Elizabeth Clarke, I’d tell them about my oldest and dearest friend.” . . . “Our relationship really took off as we battled the ERA in Illinois. And that was a battle? Elizabeth was a key organizer, putting together an in-depth analysis of all the legislators’ views and updating the list every year through the 10 year fight.” . . . “Her knowledge and interest in the military, national defense, and the Strategic Defense Initiative which was proposed by President Reagan was invaluable to building up the strength of our military and defense during the Reagan administration.” . . . “As she helped steer the Eagle Forum toward educational issues, she became a founding board member of our new Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense fund and secretary for nearly 20 years.” . . . . “As time went by and technology changed, Elizabeth surprised me and the young people in my office when her emails started noting sent from my iPad. I was impressed, but not totally surprised that Elizabeth was again using the latest technology in her continuing work as an activist.” . . . . “Illinois and the United States were better, more moral; and stronger because of Elizabeth’s selfless labors.”
Nancy Thorner, a member of both Eagle Forum and The Heartland Institute, helped organize Elizabeth Clarke’s Heartland event. Elizabeth was both a dear friend and a mentor. The six weeks prior to Elizabeth’s death was a time during which we shared so much over many hours, discovering that we had much in common. We were both news junkies. One concern was the state of the world. Elizabeth feared that America was being squeezed by China on one side and the Muslims on the other end. Both had designs to take over this nation Elizabeth especially worried that few young people were interested in writing letters or getting involved politically (Elizabeth had many Letters to the Editor published, including some fairly recent ones in the “Chicago Tribune.”). She enlisted me and others to carry on her work and to make an effort to encourage young people to continue in our footsteps when we could no longer function in that role.
Up until the very end, Elizabeth was using her iPad to send out information she considered important for others to know, likewise continuing to cut out items of interest from newspapers and magazines, which she would then assign to filing cabinets in folders covering a myriad of issues and topics Even during the last week of Elizabeth’s life, bed ridden and gradually becoming weaker, her mind continued to be sharp and her memory was unbelievable. Elizabeth would apologize to me when on a few occasions her memory would fail her.
Elizabeth’s collection of information, in addition to her collection of file folder filled with newspaper clipping, etc. from years past, also featured 200 tapes, many of them recorded directly from Elizabeth’s TV, with some containing the voices of well-known individuals she wanted to capture and save from the 70’s as part of her record of historical addresses and events she felt necessary to safe guard for future generations. All was given to Nancy Thorner by Elizabeth before her death. Much of the material has been donated to The Heartland Institute which has established the Elizabeth Clarke Archives. Many of Elizabeth’s files and tapes have also found a home in Eagle Forum’s historical archives located at the Eagle Forum Education Center, 7800 Bonhomme Ave., St. Louis, MO 63105.
Elizabeth Best Tells of Her Remarkable Life Through Her Memoirs
Perhaps there is no better way to examine an individual’s life than through their own memoirs Elizabeth was into genealogy and wrote extensive memoirs of the Allin family, about her mother and dad before her birth, and about her own life and the life of her late husband, Edwin Richard Clarke II. Elizabeth’s memoirs are amazing in content and read like novels that demand to be read.
Following are events that shaped Elizabeth’s life (a time-line):
- Born in 1918, Elizabeth moved often and loved the Army life.
- The Calvert Method was used by Elizabeth’s mother in her early schooling.
- An infection in Elizabeth’s left leg kept her in Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., from Feb. 1926, when eight years old, until 1928, when the family moved to Ft. Bragg. Elizabeth’s mother attributed prayer to healing Elizabeth’s leg and refused to allow her leg to be amputated.
- Elizabeth attended Maret French School in Washington, D.C, in 1930. There she tried to learn French and Latin and many other subjects for two years. She then begged to go to a “normal” school. The normal school, Western High School, gave her so many credits that she graduated in 1933, one of the top students, having just turned 16. Elizabeth was careful not to let Western teachers know how much she didn’t know!
- While at Ft. Shafter in the spring of 1935, at age 17 Elizabeth was fortunate to embark on a fascinating trip to the Orient on the Dollar Line with her mother. In the fall Elizabeth went to the University of Hawaii but transferred to Duke University in North Carolina when the family returned by Army transport to Ft. Bragg in 1936. Elizabeth graduated from Duke in 1939. While attending Duke, Richard Nixon was a student working for his law degree. Nixon was so poor that he couldn’t afford haircuts or live in a dorm, so he built himself a hut behind the women’s dormitory in the woods and used the library to study.
- When the Allin family was transferred to Baltimore MD in the fall of 1939, Elizabeth tried to get a job in the financial district but was told that “no women were hired in their buildings, NONE, not even janitors.” So Elizabeth volunteered to help Republican candidate, Wendell Willkie.
- Early in 1940 the Allins moved to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, where her father took command of the Artillery School. When the government called up the ROTC there were many from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, besides West Point graduates. Having graduated from Harvard in 1939, Edwin Richards Clarke II, having been a leader in the Harvard field artillery ROTC unit, was called to active duty in 1941 and ordered to Ft. Sill. It was at Fort Still that Elizabeth and Edwin met. They were married in 1941.
After their three children grew up, Elizabeth became extremely caught up in the political issues of the day, was a leader in lobbying and organizing others to help, making speeches and debating. Elizabeth learned through her own activism how much influence one person can have on our government.
If Elizabeth were able to impart some of her wisdom in the here and now in regard to the upcoming election, this would be her advice:
Too often individuals are heard to say, ‘What can I do as one person to have any influence on government?’ You can become knowledgeable about the issues facing this nation and state as the future of this nation depends upon informed voters. Write Letters to the Editor; keep tabs on your elected legislators; join organizations fighting to maintain our freedoms and moral values; speak to neighbors and friends about issues which should concern them; become a precinct committeeman or walk precincts for others; and then vote and encourage others to vote, voting wisely as the make-up of the Supreme Court hangs in balance and the outcome will determine the future direction of this nation.
You can watch the event for Elizabeth Clarke below.
[This article was first posted at Illinois Review.]