David Johnson Clarke (1914-2009): One of the Greatest, 0118 COBJ, Vol. 47, No. 1 Pg. 62

Author:JON B. CLARKE, J.
Position:Vol. 47, 1 [Page 62]

47 Colo.Law. 62

David Johnson Clarke (1914-2009): One of the Greatest

Vol. 47, No. 1 [Page 62]

The Colorado Lawyer

January, 2018


Colorado Lawyer’s “Profiles in Success” column celebrates those individuals, living and deceased, whose contributions to the practice of law lend themselves to inspiring narratives. This article is part of the “Six of the Greatest” series honoring Charles J. Beise, Daniel S. Hoffman, Howard Jenkins, David Johnson Clarke, Bryant O’Donnell, and former Colorado Chief Justice William Erickson. To suggest an article, contact Brendan Baker at bbaker@cobar.org.


David (Dave) Johnson Clarke died on November 9, 2009 of congestive heart failure. He was interred four days later at Fort Logan National Cemetery following a Veteran’s funeral with military honors.

A broad spectrum of achievements—athlete, golf champion, band pianist, veteran, politician, legislator, and bar president—combine to make Dave “one of the greatest.”

The Early Years and Family

Dave was born on August 26, 1914 at Helena, Montana, the son of Adeline Johnson and China Ray Clarke. His great grandfather, Albert Gallatin Clarke, was a hardware merchant who made oxen load trips from Missouri to the Colorado and Montana gold fields in the early 1860s, later opening a dry-goods store in Helena in 1867. The Johnsons were also a Montana pioneer family. Dave was a prominent football/track athlete and class office holder at Helena High School. He was lucky to land a summer job at the local golf course paying a “dollar a day!” After graduating high school, he was the Montana Amateur Junior Golf Champion in 1933. He helped pay his way through the University of Montana Law School by playing the piano in various small and “big” bands. He graduated with an LLB diploma in 1938.

First Employment

Dave’s single mother1 had a Library Science degree from the University of Chicago. She was the Montana Supreme Court’s Law Librarian and was determined that Dave and his older brother, Bill, would be lawyers. Bill graduated from law school a year before Dave and did some “nickel and dime” jobs for Helena law firms, also playing a lot of golf.2

On the day Dave was sworn in by the Montana Supreme Court, his mother drove him to the eastern edge of Helena and said, “Your suitcase is in the back. There are jobs for lawyers in Washington, D.C. Goodbye!” After some 60 hitchhikes over 30 days, Dave arrived in the District of Columbia, where Montana Law alumni steered him into a position with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department...

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