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. 



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

Walter Miller and Virginia Clark (21 posts)
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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

(2020) Walter Miller Clark Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #72, updated 13th January 2020 04:24:44 AM)