John (Jack) Patrick Clarke was born to Patrick Joseph and Lucile Frances Clarke. In 1934 Jack’s father died and he and his mother moved to Decatur, Illinois to live with his grandparents. Later they moved to Chicago where he graduated from Resurrection grade school. He attended Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois through his junior year and then moved to South Bend, Indiana. He graduated from South Bend Central Catholic High School in 1948. In 1949 he joined the U.S. Navy and was called back in 1952 during the Korean conflict and was honorably discharged in 1954.
That same year, utilizing the G.I. Bill, he entered Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and graduated with a B.S. degree in 1958. As a student he was a counselor in the Men’s Residence Center and the Men’s Quadrangle for five semesters and a member of Phi Delta Theta social fraternity. Upon graduation he accepted a job with the Ethyl Corporation in New York City. In 1959 he married Roberta Steiner whom he had met at IU. That marriage ended in divorce. She died in 2002.
In New York he recognized that those who seemed to be ‘fast tracked’ had advanced degrees, many from the Harvard Business School. So, in 1960 he applied and was accepted to HBS and earned his MBA in 1962. He eschewed large corporations and accepted a job with Copley Newspapers, which owned fifteen daily newspapers in Illinois and California. He joined the Illinois State Journal (morning) and Illinois State Register (evening) in Springfield, Illinois. In 1968, James S. Copley appointed him Publisher, a position he held until his retirement in 1997. The State Journal-Register as it was renamed after he merged the morning and evening into a single morning newspaper, which was not only the oldest newspaper in Illinois but also the oldest business of any kind in continuous operation since 1831, two years before the city of Chicago was incorporated in 1833. Clarke was also the longest serving Publisher/Editor in its history. During that period he served as a member of the Copley Press Inc. Board of Directors, a member of the Senior Management Committee, and as president of Fox Valley Press, a wholly owned subsidiary that published daily newspapers in Waukegan, Elgin, Aurora, Joliet and Naperville, Illinois.
1970 was a very special year, his two daughters, Shannon and Dana, were both born. The other very special year was 1995 when he married the love of his life, Sheila, and became the proud stepfather to her three daughters, Paige, Kelly and Jodi.
As publisher of the influential newspaper in the state capital he became involved in a wide range of activities, both locally and statewide. Among other activities he served as president of both Springfield Central Area Development Association and Downtown Parking Inc, Campaign Chairman and President of the United Way of Sangamon County; President of Sangamon State University Foundation (later University of Illinois at Springfield); President’s Council University of Illinois at Springfield; Director, First National Bank; Director, YMCA; appointed by Governor Ogilvie to the Capital City Planning Commission; Tournament Chairman, President, Chairman of the Board of the State Farm Classic, and LPGA tournament.
Statewide he served as a vice-president of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce; Director, Illinois Ambassadors; Director, Inland Daily Press Association; Director, Illinois Press Association; Director, Abraham Lincoln Association; appointed by Governor Edgar co-chair (with wife Sheila) of the 1997 Lincoln Academy.
His longest and most rewarding serviced was his, along with two others, appointment by the Illinois Supreme Court to serve as the first non-attorney commissioners to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission in 1988. He served the allowed three three-year terms. He later became a public member of the Hearing Board and for many years heard cases of attorneys charged with professional misconduct.
In 1996, as he approached retirement, he was presented with an honorary Copley First Citizen Award.
In 1997 Jack and Sheila became residents of Naples. They both became very involved with Greater Naples Leadership, an organization of active and talented men and women who wish to give back to their community. It also was the source of many wonderful friendships.
He is survived by his wife Sheila; daughter Shannon, her husband Perry, her daughter Anna and son John and Perry’s sons Devin and Zain; daughter Dana, her fiancé Dave and her sons William and Alexander; step-daughter Paige, her husband Peter, their daughter Carly and son Luke; step daughter Kelly and partner Bradford; step daughter Jodi, her husband Mitchell, their daughter Peyton and son Parker.
Services will be held at a later date.