Edward A. Clark, lawyer, banker, and diplomat, was born on July 15, 1906, in San Augustine, Texas, to John and Lelia (Downs) Clark. He attended Southwestern University before finishing his undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans. He received a law degree in 1928 from the University of Texas. During the 1960s Southwestern University and Cleary College of Michigan awarded him honorary doctoral degrees for his philanthropic work done on behalf of the schools. Following law school, Clark served two terms as a county attorney in his hometown before moving to Austin to serve as assistant attorney general of Texas from 1932 to 1935 and assistant to Governor James Allred from 1935 to 1937. The governor appointed him secretary of state in 1937, when he was only thirty years old. After leaving the secretary of state's office, Clark remained in Austin and opened a private law practice with Everett Looney in December 1938. The firm eventually became Clark, Thomas and Winters, one of the most influential and successful firms in the state. Along with politics and law, Clark also had a reputation as an astute banker. He served on numerous boards and was the senior chairman of Texas Commerce Bank of Austin and the First National Bank of San Augustine. During World War II he was a captain in the United States Army.
For Clark, politics was always a primary interest, even after he officially left state government in 1938. He was a lobbyist and political strategist in both state and national politics. He was a mentor and advisor of vision and foresight to three generations of political leaders, including Lyndon Baines Johnson. Clark served as Johnson's legal counsel in 1948, when Coke Stevenson contested Johnson's seventy-one-vote victory in the United States Senate race. In 1965 Johnson appointed Clark United States ambassador to Australia. In 1969 Anne Clark, Edward's wife, published a book, Australian Adventure: Letters From an Ambassador's Wife, about their experiences. Clark was a devoted but conservative Democrat. In 1972, however, he supported John G. Tower's bid for the Senate. He stated that he believed "the best interests of Texas are served by having a senator from each major party. This assures us that on votes of vital interest to our state, Texans have a voice in both major parties." Despite protests from the faithful in both parties, Tower selected Clark to run his reelection campaign. Clark also supported Richard Nixon over George McGovern in the presidential election that year. Nixon appointed Clark in 1974 to the General Advisory Committee of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. In another departure from the Democratic fold in 1984, Clark served on a statewide nonpartisan steering committee to reelect Ronald Reagan.
His civic and community activities included serving on the board of regents of the University of Texas System from 1973 to 1979 and for many years as a trustee of both Southwestern University and the University of Texas Law Foundation. From 1983 to 1985, Clark served as president of the Texas State Historical Association. He was a fund-raiser extraordinaire for projects that benefited higher education and preservation of the Texas historical heritage. He was one of the first to recognize the need for a complete revision of the Handbook of Texas and served as chairman of the development committee for the revision project. In addition to his efforts for the Handbook, he was instrumental in raising funds for Southwestern University, the University of Texas Medical Branch, and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library. He also organized the effort to finance construction of the State Bar of Texas headquarters and raised funds to purchase the telescope at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. Clark's love of Texas history extended into his private life as well. He and his wife, Anne Metcalf Clark, whom he married on December 28, 1927, restored and maintained a home, Saddlefork Farm, in San Augustine. The couple's interest in the Southwest led them to acquire an extensive 7,000-volume Texana collection, which they subsequently donated to Southwestern University.
Among the many honors bestowed on Ambassador Clark was the Ima Hogg Historical Achievement Award. In 1967 the University of Texas Ex-Students' Association named him a distinguished alumnus. Twenty years later the University of Texas Law Alumni Association gave him the Outstanding Alumnus Award. The Edward Clark Centennial Professorship in Law was established at UT in his honor as well. Edward and Anne Clark were also awarded the Mirabeau B. Lamar Medal for Distinguished Contribution to Higher Education in recognition of their hard work and dedication to various schools in the state. Clark was a member of the Philosophical Society of Texas, the Knights of the Order of San Jacinto, the Sons of the Republic of Texas, Kappa Sigma, and Phi Delta Phi Legal Fraternity. He was a member of St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin. He died on September 16, 1992, in Austin.