HUGH CLARK / 1940 – 2015

Posted On June 12th, 2015 -

Veteran Big Isle journalist was ‘a newsman’s newsman’

2015 June 12 CTY - Hugh Clark - Hugh Clark, former Honolulu Advertiser Hawaii Island Bureau Chief, photo from 2002 November 15. HSA photo archive

By Kevin Dayton / kdayton@staradvertiser.com

Longtime editor and newspaper reporter Hugh Clark, who chronicled decades of Hawaii island news and sports events with a competitive energy that often overwhelmed his frustrated competitors, died Thursday at Hospice of Hilo’s Pohai Malama care center following a long bout with cancer. He was 75.

Clark wrote about politics, crime and volcanic eruptions from his base in Hilo for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and The Hono­lulu Advertiser, and was “a driven newsman,” said Gene Tao, a longtime friend and colleague.

“Whatever journalism I know, really practical experience, I learned it from him,” said Tao, who worked with Clark for years. “He was a really great teacher, very ethical, very professional, and in private circumstances very, very sociable.”

Anne Clark said she and her husband shared a sense of humor and a love of travel that they passed on to their daughter.

“Hugh just loved the Big Island; he loved the community. He was so into reading, writing, reporting. That was his love and he did it so well, and we shared it,” she said. “I was lucky to be part of the 27 years we were married. It went by too quick and it happened too fast.”

Hugh James Clark was born in Santa Rosa, Calif., and grew up in Washington state, Idaho and Willits, Calif. He graduated from Humboldt State University, where he was active in college publications and worked his way through school as assistant sports editor for the former Humboldt Times.

He went on to work at daily newspapers in Idaho, California, Texas and Nevada, including stints as editor of the Levelland Daily Sun and the Ely Daily Times. He was named news editor at the Tribune-Herald in Hilo in 1966.

As news editor at the Tribune-Herald, Clark resembled the tough, gruff city editors portrayed in the movies, Tao said. Clark recruited Tao to the newspaper, and the two became close friends.

“I rated him as a newsman’s newsman,” said Tao, who went on to become editor of the Tribune-Herald. “He was very strict about the words, the grammar, the facts, the writing.”

When the two friends would become weary of the Hilo rain, Tao recalled how they would drive to Kona for weekend outings to stroll in the sun on Alii Drive to relax. “We all loved to drink a little bit, and in those days we drank beer and gin and tonic,” Tao said. “I really miss him.”

Clark left the Tribune-Herald in 1971 after an angry dispute with newspaper management over an editorial Clark wrote about a local land-use issue. He was immediately hired by the Advertiser as its Hawaii island bureau chief, but Clark was so furious at the Tribune-Herald that for years he refused to set foot in the newspaper building, Tao said.

That quarrel with his former employer provided an extra edge to Clark’s reporting for the Advertiser, said Jim Richardson, the former state editor for the Advertiser who supervised Clark.

Clark would work all day covering business and county government, and then race off to a local high school to cover sports. “He would drive the Tribune-Herald crazy because he covered so many things,” Richardson said.

Mike Middlesworth, former managing editor and business manager for the Advertiser, said Clark “covered his island like a blanket. There wasn’t anything that went on over there that he didn’t know about. He knew everybody.”

Clark was a founding member of the Big Island Press Club and served as its president. He was an outspoken advocate for open-records and open-meetings laws to make government operations more transparent, and was named the press club’s member of the year several times.

He also led a successful political push to incorporate language into the Hawaii County Charter to require open meetings by county boards, Tao said.

An avid sports fan, Clark was a beginning member of the Nissan Hall of Honor high school sports recognition program and served that organization for 32 years. In 2004 he was inducted into the University of Hawaii-Hilo Athletic Hall of Fame for his reporting on sports.

He was also a 30-year volunteer with the American Lung Association and served on its national board of directors.

Clark is survived by wife Anne and daughter Sandhya, a graduate student at Columbia University, as well as brother Tom and sister Joan Sinclair, both of California.

Services will be at Dodo Mortuary in Hilo on Friday. Visitation will be from 4 to
5 p.m., followed by the services. Ashes will be placed in Hilo Bay at a later date.

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