Mr Walter Miller Clark

Walter Miller Clark

Mr Walter Miller Clark was born in Jefferson, Montana on 13 May 1884.

He was the son of James Ross Clark (1850-1927) and Augusta Miriam Evans (1858-1951). His father was born in Pennsylvania and worked in the US mail service and as a bookkeeper in Montana before becoming vice president of the Los Alamitos Sugar Company, railroad official and president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. He was married to his Ohio-born wife Miriam on 16 April 1878 in Deer Lodge, Montana and had two surviving children: Ella Harriet (b. 1881, later Mrs Henry Carlton Lee) and Walter. 

Walter's uncle was Montana copper magnate William Andrews Clark (1839-1925), a Democratic senator whose son Charles was not only a cousin to Walter but a close personal friend; the two spent much time together in San Mateo and San Francisco. 

The family moved to Los Angeles in the early 1890s and appear in that city of the 1900 census, Walter then still described as a schoolboy. A survivor of the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906, he was a graduate of Berkeley, University of California the following year and was a well-liked young man in his local community and in the place of his birth, Montana, where he still had family and where he regularly visited. It was there that he met his future wife, Virginia Estelle McDowell (b. 1885) and they were married in New York on 5 January 1909. The couple were shown residing in Los Angeles on 1910 census and were listed twice; once at the home of his parents at West Adams Street and then at their own home, Severance Street.

The Clark's only child, son James Ross Clark, was born on 24 April 1910. Around that time Walter had taken over from his father as general manager of Los Alamitos Sugar Company.

Walter and Virginia took a belated honeymoon to Europe in early 1912 but cut their trip short to return home and celebrate their son's birthday; they boarded Titanic at Cherbourg as first class passengers on 10 April 1912 (ticket number 13508 which cost £136, 15s, 7d) and occupied cabin C89. 

Mrs Clark was alone in her cabin when the collision occurred; although noting that the impact was slight she admitted that she felt something was very wrong and immediately dressed and ascended to the promenade deck; she found her husband in the smoking room playing cards with acquaintances. The two made enquiries with officers and other crewmen as to the situation but were told that the ship had struck some ice and that there was no danger. Upon their return to their cabin the Clarks saw a man pass by carrying a lifejacket and soon learned that all passengers were to proceed to the boat deck.

Walter and Virginia dressed warmly and they headed topside where they stopped to watch the proceedings, reportedly meeting with the Astors and Strausses with whom they conversed. Mr Clark reportedly felt no apprehension about the situation and fully expected to see his wife later; the last she saw of him was him hanging over the railing and waving to her. 

Robert Williams Daniel also claimed to have seen Walter and Colonel Astor both leaning against the railing and conversing late in the proceedings; but considering that Daniel left the ship in one of the first lifeboats this is highly questionable. 

Walter Miller Clark died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.

His estate was estimated at $78,310 with his two-year-old son to inherit $40,000 of that. Further to this, his widow had a hasty and surprise remarriage in September 1912 leading to a custody battle between her and Walter's parents. The result was joint guardianship was awarded to both parties whereby they had custody six months each year in turn.

His widow Virginia was remarried twice and remained living in California where she died in 1958. His son James Ross Clark died on 24 February 1962 in Riverside, California.

A church in Long Beach, California and now named Lakewood Village Community Church was built in 1937 and was named The Walter Miller Clark Memorial Community Church. Clark's mother, Miriam, donated the land and the funds for its construction.

At the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, located at 6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038, a tribute plaque to Walter Miller Clark is located inside the Mausoleum for Walter's father, James Ross Clark (April 10, 1850 - September 18, 1927). The plaque lists Walter Clark, Lost at Sea, SS Titanic. 

 

Pictures

Walter Miller Clark
WALTER MILLER CLARK
 

Articles and Stories

Salt Lake Tribune (1912) 
San Francisco Bulletin (1912) 
New York Times (1912) 
Oakland Tribune (1912) 
Anaconda Standard (1912) 
The San Francisco Call (1912) 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. Charles Provost said:

    Did Mrs. Walter Miller Clark, first class passenger, ever wrote an account of her own concerning her experiences on the Titanic? Any information appreciated. Sincerely, Charles Provost

  2. Mike Herbold said:

    Charles: I don't think she wrote her own account, but Don Lynch gave a detailed recap of her time in his two-part "Titanic Commutator" article entitled "The Clark Family of Los Angeles," in 1991-1992.

  3. Charles Provost said:

    Dear Mike, thanks for this information but unfortunatly I'm not a member of the Historical Titanic Society. Do you know where I can obtain a copy of this article? Most appreciated. Sincerely, Charles

  4. Mike Herbold said:

    Charles: Contact me at

  5. Kathleen McNulty said:

    Dear all Virginia Clark is a survivor that I have never been able to track down by myself and I see that on this site a DOD in 1958 has been given for her. From the research that I have carried out she appears to have remarried on more than one occassion but I am unaware of her married name at her time of death. Does anybody out there know? Thanks Kathleen McNulty

  6. avatar

    Phillip Gowan said:

    Kathleen, she died as Virginia Tanner (Mrs. John) in Los Angeles. Phillip

  7. Mike Herbold said:

    Kathleen: Don Lynch wrote a very detailed two part article on "The Clark Family of Los Angeles" that appeared in the "Commutator" in 1992. It's too bad its not available in reprints by itself, but THS will sell you the back issues. Contact me at

  8. Brian Ahern said:

    Here's a link on the family she married into, which includes a photo of Walter and Virginia's son standing with Walter's parents: There is some info on the Net on Walter's family because of their railroad dealings, but does anyone have any info on Virginia's background? I believe, though I'm not certain, that she was a military brat. Her ET bio says she was born in Montana in 1885, which was an unusual birthplace for a society woman in her day, but then the Clarks were... Read full post

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  9. avatar

    Mike Poirier said:

    Hello Brian- Don Lynch did a very nice article on Virginia in the THS Commutator. It was spread out over two issues. I think 1991-1992 era. You may want to check their website for back issues. Mike

  10. Brian Ahern said:

    Thanks, Mike! I'll get on that. The first class passengers who interest me the most are the ones of whom less is written, and who don't necessarily fit into the whole New York-Philadelphia society thing, people like the Clarks, Cavendishes, Minahans, Stengels.

  11. Brian Ahern said:

    By accident this weekend, I stumbled onto the knowledge that two of the three famous Montana "Copper Kings" were uncles to Walter Clark - one by blood; one by marriage. The Copper Kings - William Andrews Clark, Marcus Daly and Augustus Heinze - made their money largely in banking and railroads. They were apparently quite ruthless. They vied with each other for supremacy in business and influence - at least a couple of book have been written about their rivalry, and all three of their lives are fairly well-documented. Clark was Walter's father's brother. Daly was married to Walter's... Read full post

  12. Martin Williams said:

    Thanks for this, Brian. I know next to nothing about the Clarks but it is so interesting to learn more of their family connections - which were obviously quite impressive! As with many of the passengers we've discussed here, such information really helps to 'situate' these individuals in the society of the day.

  13. Brian Ahern said:

    I finally managed to learn a little more about Virginia's life post-Titanic, thanks to the LA Times archive. I've yet to spring for the articles, but will share them once I have. Here's what I've gleaned from the headlines and synopses... In October of 1912, Virginia married Dr. Jack Tanner in New York. Her powerful father-in-law, J. Ross Clark, publicly decried her actions and moved to gain custody of Virginia's son, J. Ross Clark II, on the grounds of willful abandonment. He was initially successful, but Virginia fought back, and it appears the boy was shuttled between his mother and... Read full post

  14. Martin Williams said:

    I've just realised that the sumptuous purple-and-gold Lucile evening dress sold for nearly $36,000 by Doyle Auctioneers back in 2004 was from the wardrobe of Marcus Daly's daughter (and thus Walter Miller Clark's first cousin), Margaret. She married Henry Carroll Brown of Baltimore around 1900 and was active in Society, both in that city and in New York. Sadly, she died very suddenly at her mother's home on Fifth Avenue in April, 1911, predeceasing Clark by almost exactly a year. Apparently a very stylish woman, Margaret's Lucile gown was dated by fashion historians to one of Lady DG's first... Read full post

  15. sashka pozzetti said:

    The auction house had little difficulty dating the lucile dress, because sadly Mrs Brown died very soon after having bought it. There were claims that it was a tribute to Leon Bakst, but I have no idea why. Another dress bought recently by the Victoria and Albert museum, is going to feature in the Lucile book being published by the end of the year. :-)

  16. Martin Williams said:

    Here's a photograph of Walter Miller Clark's first cousin (his mother's sister's daughter) who married the Hungarian Count Anton Sigray von Febre in 1910. The wedding was a 'top drawer' affair, attended by Thomas Cardeza and George and Eleanor Widener, besides swarms of other Society luminaries. Unusually for a debutante, Harriot had been an active supporter of the fashionable Metropolitan Opera. 'The New York Times' of 12 November, 1907, noted that she... Read full post

  17. Martin Williams said:

    Brian has already flagged this link on another thread but, for the purpose of general comprehensiveness, it perhaps deserves a place here as well. The Clark family was one of the wealthiest and most influential in the western States around the turn of the century - a position only consolidated by their marital alliance to the Dalys, which Brian detailed in his post above. Included is a photograph of Walter Miller Clark's parents, J. Ross Clark and his wife Miriam, standing on the steps of their... Read full post

  18. Brian Ahern said:

    Happy New Year, Martin! Your posts are motivating me to finally finish writing up the summary of Virginia's life - as told by contemporary news accounts from her days as a Montana belle to her days as a much-married New York-Palm Beach-Pasadena society matron - that I probably started a year ago. Her life might win the prize for the most soap opera-esque of First Class ladies (though, of course, she's got stiff competition).

  19. Martin Williams said:

    Hi Brian Naturally, I'll be thrilled to read anything you might care to contribute here about Walter and Virginia Clark. Although I am, by the sounds of it, ten paces behind you with my research, I've been following up a few leads of my own and eagerly anticipate your summary. I'm sure it will be a corker. Myself, I've been using the holidays to write my own potted biography of James Clinch Smith, which I hope to get on-line in the next month or so. Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2009. Martin

  20. Martin Williams said:

    Can't think how I've never come across this site before. As it includes the only photograph of Walter Miller Clark I've seen so far, it might be of some interest.

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
John Clifford, USA
Peter Engberg, Sweden
Jim Kalafus, USA
James Melvin, USA
Hermann Söldner, Germany

References and Sources

Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
Photo: Anaconda Standard (Montana), 17 April 1912
Sacramento Union, 29 May 1912, Two year old boy inherits big estate
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2019) Walter Miller Clark (ref: #72, last updated: 5th January 2019, accessed 8th August 2020 04:02:49 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/walter-miller-clark.html