I join many current and former Federal City Council trustees who are mourning the loss of Jim Clark this week. From the deeply personal connections he made with so many of us to the indelible physical impact he had on our city, Jim made Washington, DC the city it is today. He paved a path for generations of entrepreneurs who continue to shape the city as we know it. We join in solidarity with Jim’s family, with the employees of Clark Enterprises Inc., and with our Chairman Bob Flanagan during this difficult period.
I asked the Federal City Council trustees who knew him best to provide a few remarks to share with you. Rusty Lindner expressed the following thoughts on such a great man and friend:
Jim Clark was never someone who would greet you superficially, all the while glancing over your shoulder to scan a room in an effort to see who else he might wish to meet. His interest in you was genuine, and intensely focused; his time was your time. He wasn’t unmindful of the others in the room, but respected you in the sincere manner of his engagement.
He was one of the most competitive people I’ve ever encountered –and lest there be any doubt, one only had to watch him on the golf course. A $10 Nassau bet might as well have been a hotly-contested $100 million government contract. The only time I saw him whine was when Larry Nussdorf and I paired up and beat my father and him out of five bucks in a tight, seesaw match. AJC complained for the entire 18 holes with the refrain, “That damn Nussdorf shortchanged us by not giving me enough strokes! After all I’ve done for him!” He of course was kidding (kind of….).
One of the most quietly generous people I ever met, Jim had the gift of knowing how to impact a friend or organization with a powerful, even sacrificial, gesture. I experienced this first-hand when, secretively, AJC devised and then funded a GW professorship on business ethics in honor of my father and late godfather, alumni of the university. My dad has never been more moved by an act of selfless kindness and generosity, nor have I.
Jim was intensely loyal. And a superior judge of people. Just look at those around him. They would run a marathon over hot coals for the man.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he was a “handshake guy”, a moral man of high ethics. His word was his bond.
Ted Leonsis penned the following tribute to Jim which I am pleased to share with you on his behalf:
Jim was a giant of a man, gentle, soft spoken, a true gentleman. A class act. A great father, husband, investor, and beloved boss to so many people in our community.
Jim was an authentic community leader and philanthropist. He was involved in just about every big building project in our community. Verizon Center, Fedex Field, Nationals Park, Sidney Harman Hall, United States Institute of Peace, The World Bank building, DC’s new City Center, Smithsonian Museums, The American Red Cross Headquarters, plus airports, hospitals, Metro rail stations, the list goes on and on.
Jim built Clark Construction into one of the world’s biggest and best construction companies. He loved our city, and the DMV, he loved his University of Maryland. He also supported Johns Hopkins and George Washington University too with deep generosity.
He garnered five honorary degrees, and was recognized with the top philanthropist award in our city. He set an example for so many; he will be deeply missed.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends in this time of need. This was a man worthy our admiration and gratitude. He was a true giant.
This morning, I had the opportunity to speak personally with Oliver Carr, Jim’s friend and business partner. Ollie asked me to pass along the following message to our trustees:
Jim Clark, my dear friend for more than 50 years, always tried to be the best, and he was.
In my role with the Federal City Council, and as former Mayor, it is my significant privilege to thank the people who gave the most to our city. To Jim Clark, thank you.
With sincere regards,