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Robert's Story

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Robert Alfred Clark was born in Smith Center, Kansas on Aug. 18, 1924, as the first son of Margaret and Alfred Clark. Alfred was one of the leading photographers in the town, having returned from WWI where he served as a pilot instructor for the early Army Airforce at various airfields in Texas (having once landed on Galveston beach in a bi-plane on the way to Fort Crocket).
Alfred had married Margaret Mackey, from the Minden, Nebraska area and set up a photography studio in Smith Center. They had two sons, Robert (Bob) and James (Jim).
Bob attended grammar and high school in Smith Center. In those days, there were people living on almost every 40 acres, farming and raising families. He participated in most aspects of high school life as there were few students. Thus, he played football and tennis (helped pour the concrete for the tennis courts) and played the clarinet in the band.
He planned to attend college in engineering just as the second World War started. He related that on Dec. 7, 1941, he was in a theater watching a movie with friends. On leaving the theater, everyone was talking about the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Naturally, Jim and Bob signed up for service.
Bob started his Civil Engineering studies at Kansas State University while waiting to be called up for service. He joined the US Army Air force Dec. 15, 1942, as a private, while continuing his education.
On March 8, 1943, Bob was called up for active duty as an Aviation Cadet. He studied meteorology from March 1943 until September 1943 at the University of Wisconsin and then at the University of Chicago from September 1943 until June 4, 1944, when he was discharged. The next day, June 5, 1944, he was commissioned a second Lieutenant. He continued his studies as a Meteorological Officer, training to fly ahead of bombing missions to scout the weather environment from the nose of a B24 or B29. He attended B24 gunnery school in August 1945 in anticipation of flying against Japan.
His final assignment during the war years was as an aviation forecaster in Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and California. He was discharged from the Army Airforce on Aug. 6, 1946, as a 1st Lieutenant.
Bob resumed his studies at Kansas State, receiving a BS in Civil Engineering in August 1948. He joined the US Bureau of Reclamation, working as a hydrologist in Nebraska. He was called up during the Korean War in October 1950, again as an aviation forecaster for the US Air Force in Oklahoma and Texas. He was discharged again in July 1952 as a Captain.
While working at a base in Oklahoma, he went on a double date with an officer from the base, R. G. Bounds, with twin sisters from Streetman, Dorothy and Doris. Both men eventually married their respective sweethearts, with Bob marrying Dorothy on July 25, 1952, at the Powell Baptist Church in Navarro County, pastor M. O. Southerland presiding.
He resumed his work for the US Bureau of Reclamation, working on major dam projects in 17 western states as a hydro-meteorologist, forecasting how rain and snowfall would fill reservoirs behind a planned dam, while living in Denver, Colorado. Their sons Robert Alfred Clark, Jr., and John Charles Clark were born there in 1954 and 1956.
Bob moved to College Station, Texas in Sept. 1958 with his new family and began his studies towards a MS degree. In August 1959, he received a MS in Meteorology degree from Texas A&M University. He returned to Denver again, working for the US Bureau of Reclamation for another year. In August 1960, the family moved back to Bryan, Texas while he continued his graduate studies in meteorology. Bob was conferred a Doctorate of Philosophy in Meteorology in August 1960 from Texas A&M University, having written a dissertation on RADAR meteorology.
Bob joined the staff of the Meteorology Department at Texas A&M University as a Research Scientist and eventually became a full professor. Between teaching classes in hydrology, meteorology, and weather forecasting, he investigated applications for using RADAR to analyze weather conditions. He consulted with several engineering firms on hydro-meteorological issues around the world. Bob very much enjoyed international travel and was able to take the family on summer work assignments.
The family spent several summers in Venezuela while Bob was teaching classes at the Universidad de Oriente and they flew one round-the-world trip after a job in Thailand. He worked in many countries, including Pakistan, Greece, Surinam, Ceylon, Colombia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Jamaica, Iran, Bolivia, and Iceland. He continued to be active in the US Airforce Reserve, eventually being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
In March 1973, Bob left TAMU and joined the Office of Hydrology of the National Weather Service, NOAA as Chief Hydrologist. He was promoted to Director of the Office of Hydrology and was responsible for flood forecasting and hydro-meteorological studies. This included supervising operations at 13 River Forecast Centers and 52 Weather Service Forecast Offices. He oversaw the modernization of the US hydrologic services for improved flood forecasting. He acted as an advisor to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
He consulted on flood forecasting for the Yellow River Basin and the Yangtze River Basin in China, helped to set up rain and river gauge systems and early warning systems, and provided training through the World Laboratory out of Lausanne, Switzerland.
In 1985, Bob retired from the National Weather Service and joined the University of Arizona at Tucson as Adjunct Professor in the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources. He continued to work on special projects in China, Arabia, and southern Africa.
He lectured at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. He worked with the World Federation of Scientists and World Lab, eventually serving on the executive Committee. That organization promotes the interchange of research between developed and developing nations and has projects throughout the world. He chaired panels to develop a dust forecasting program for the League of Arab States and to plan defenses against floods and extreme weather events.
Bob served on the Committee on Hydro-meteorology, the Executive Committee of the Hydraulics Division, and the Committee on History and Heritage of the Environmental and Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He authored or co-authored over 50 papers in the fields of hydrology and meteorology over his career. Dr. Clark was widely held in high regard by the students, faculty, staff and teaching assistants at the University of Arizona. He retired finally in 2008. Friends and colleagues remember him as "a joy to be around", "a dedicated and sweet man", "distinguished" and "one to be remembered for his contributions and commitment".
Bob received the ASCE Ven Te Chow award in 2002 in recognition of his lifetime achievements in the field of hydrological engineering and was awarded the Erice Spirit Gold Medal in 2003 from the World Federation of Scientists.
In 2004, he was awarded the Erice Prize in Rome in the name of the Government of Sicily by the Ettore Majorana Foundation in recognition of lifetime achievement in promoting science for peace and he received an audience with Pope John Paul at the Vatican. Bob served on the board of the Community National Bank and Trust of Texas for many years as an advisor. He also ranched cattle in Navarro County, Texas.
Dorothy passed away in November 1977, his wife of 25 years, and their son John passed away in May 1992 at 36 years. Dr. Clark is survived by his son Robert (and his wife of 36 years, Alice Clark,) and his granddaughter Rachel Woodruff and grandson Robert Michael Clark. He spent many years in his continued scientific pursuits and traveled extensively with his longtime friend Margaret Peterson and friends Bill and Lucille Sprigg and many colleagues from all over the world.
He died peacefully at his home in Tucson on Sept. 30, 2016. He will be missed.
Funeral arrangements are by the Corley Funeral Home in Corsicana. Services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at First Baptist Church in Streetman to be interned in Birdston Cemetery next to Dorothy and John.
Visitation begins at noon.
An online guest book is available at www.corleyfuneralhome.com and selecting the Robert A. Clark, Sr. obituary.
Published on October 12, 2016
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