Most people who succeed in the arena of public policy – especially in D.C. – have a knack for self-promotion.
Yet you likely haven’t heard of William P. Clark.
That’s because, unlike others in his position, he was modest beyond explanation. And considering that he was close to the spotlight on a daily basis, that was no easy feat.
You see, not only did Clark work alongside President Ronald Reagan throughout his career, many people (including me) believe that he was the closest friend Reagan ever had.
I was lucky enough to know Bill Clark very well. And since he left this Earth last Saturday, I thought it’s time you knew him, too.
Helping Reagan Crush the Soviet Union
While Reagan was Governor of California, Bill served in numerous posts, including Reagan’s Chief of Staff in Sacramento. He ended those years as a Reagan appointee to the California Supreme Court.
(That’s why those of us who knew him called him “Judge.” Even though, as late as 2011, he was still asking me to simply call him Bill.)
Once Ronald Reagan moved to Washington, he immediately called Bill to serve him in a variety of difficult positions – the most important of which was National Security Advisor in the White House in January of 1982. (And they just don’t make them like they used to).
At this post, Bill crafted the eventual unraveling of the Soviet Empire.
Recall that Margaret Thatcher credited Ronald Reagan with “defeating the Soviet Union without firing a shot.” That’s true. But Bill Clark was Reagan’s chief advisor during the battle.
The plan consisted of both intense economic warfare and Reagan’s offer to help the Soviet dictatorship step slowly toward a pluralistic and Democratic society.
In terms of economic warfare, the most significant aspect was to limit the hard currency that the Soviet Bloc could earn from Russia’s large and untapped oil and gas reserves. And one of the policies Clark penned was a national security directive which limited the Soviet’s access to the best of Western oil and gas equipment. He also authored a security directive which successfully limited economic credits to the Eastern Bloc.
And when the Polish Communist regime – headed by Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski – declared Marshall Law, Bill Clark really went into action.
He authored economic sanctions to damage the regime and coordinated an effort to help the Solidarity Union keep up the battle inside Poland for worker and human rights.
Close Ties to the Pope
A devout Catholic, early in life Bill had considered becoming a priest. This background helped him forge the relationship between Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan.
Those who know how the Pope and President Reagan worked together know that another friendship – between Judge Clark and the Apostolic Delegate to the United States, Archbishop Pio Laghi – was responsible.
Years later, Judge Clark would recall these meetings to me with great fondness. He always felt that communism was destined to fall because of God’s plan. He was immensely happy to have played a role, even though he’d always downplay his impact.
Maybe his modesty was a result of his heritage as a farmer, rancher and cowboy growing up in what was then rural Ventura County, California.
I’ll never forget his warm smile and handshake extended over a crackling campfire after a long day of riding. Bill was happiest riding with friends, driving a wagon, flying his airplane, or simply spending time with his family on his beautiful ranch in Shandon, California.
Now that he’s left us, those who had the pleasure of knowing him are confident he’s now in the arms of his loving savior, Jesus Christ.
It was a true pleasure to have known him, and it’s been a pleasure to extend my gratitude for it to you.
And as always, I remain…
Your eyes on the Hill, Floyd G. Brown
This commentary was originally publish at CapitalHillDaily.com and is re-published here with permission.
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