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Former Utah bankruptcy court judge Glen Edward Clark, whose decision to pursue a career in the law was spurred by watching the Army-McCarthy hearings on television in the 1950s, died Thursday at his home in Georgia of complications from heart failure, liver disease and cancer. He was 70.
Clark and his wife of 42 years, Deanna, moved to Georgia's St. Simons Island after he retired in 2009 as chief judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Utah. A graduate of the University of Utah's college of law, Clark was appointed the bench in 1982, and became chief judge four years later.
Clark grew up in the farm country of Iowa, and decided to pursue a career in law after watching televised hearings of the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Investigations in 1954. Senators were investigating conflicting accusations between the Army and Sen. Joseph McCarthy over whether McCarthy's chief counsel, Roy Cohn, exerted undue pressure on the Army on behalf of a personal friend.
Clark, according to his wife, Deanna Clark, was intrigued by the attorneys he saw on television, and vowed to make that his life's work.
"He just thought it was fascinating," she said of Clark's interest in the legal machinations on stage during the hearings' gavel-to-gavel coverage.
Clark earned a political science degree from the University of Iowa and upon graduating married Deanna Dee Thomas, whom he met in 4-H Leadership Club. After a two-year stint in the Army, he entered law school at the U. and joined the Salt Lake City law firm Fabian & Clendenin after graduating in 1971. He continued his association with the U. as a visiting professor of law, and was elected president of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges in 1992.
Salt Lake City attorney Ralph Mabey, who served with Clark on the bankruptcy court bench, described him as a "wonderful colleague" with the intellectual capacity to quickly grasp the implications of a legal argument and a demeanor that inspired other lawyers.
"Judge Clark had a great sense of fair play. He had great respect for the judicial system and for its integrity and as a result, people who practiced before him honored the integrity and the fairness of the judicial system," Mabey said.
But he also had a wry sense of humor, Mabey said, "which would be expressed in a surprising comment here and there, sometimes in the midst of lengthy or heavy argument."
Clark also had varied and diverse interests outside of the law, Deanna Clark said. He enjoyed reading, gardening and spending time with family, including the couple's two children and their grandchildren. But he had another passion that likely wasn't obvious in the courtroom.
"Oh, he loved to dance," Deanna Clark said in a telephone interview. The couple belonged to the Cottonwood Club's Third Saturday Night Dance Club, where they regularly practiced moves they learned early in their married life.
She said she and Clark moved to Georgia to be closer to family, and that he "loved the island, loved the beauty of it, the sereneness of it. Frankly, that was what he loved about Utah, too."
A memorial service is scheduled for Monday on St. Simons Island.