Clarke left mark in village and beyond

Series: Hinsdale 150 | Story 36

Philip R. Clarke, a.k.a. "Mr. Hinsdale," was community service personified for most of his 77 years, both in the village he called home his entire life and in Chicago, where he was a prominent businessman, civic leader and philanthropist. Clarke's life was chronicled in a tribute story, excerpted here, that appeared in The Doings upon his death in 1966.

"Born in Hinsdale (in 1889), he was the son of Robert W. Clarke, a founder of the Presbyterian Church in the village which later merged with Union Church.

"A graduate of Hinsdale High School, class of 1906, he enrolled at Beloit College but was compelled to withdraw after three days because of illness. Instead of re-entering college, he became a salesman for an investment firm in Chicago."

He married Louise Hildebrand, also a child of early Hinsdale settlers, and they lived at 419 S. Oak St.

"Mr. Clarke won many honors in Chicago, being named 'Chicagoan of the Year' in 1960, but he remained a devoted Hinsdalean, serving as a sponsor of the Graue Mill committee, president of the Hinsdale board of education from 1928 to 1932, president of the Hinsdale Club from 1920 to 1923 and as chairman of the building committee for the Hinsdale Memorial Building.

"Mr. Clarke was president of Bronswood Cemetery, which he bought in 1946 to preserve it for the use of Hinsdale area people."

He was president of the Hinsdale State bank, later merging with First National Bank of Hinsdale, and was honored with the first citizenship award presented by Hinsdale Junior Chamber of Commerce.

"At the age of 24, Mr. Clarke organized his own investment firm, Clarke and Co., which he headed until 1916 when he liquidated the business to volunteer his services to the Chicago Liberty Loan committee (selling government bonds to support the U.S. effort in World War I), which he led as vice chairman during each of five victorious campaigns."

Post-war he founded the Federal Securities Corp. He became president and CEO of its successor company, City National Bank and Trust, and served as chairman of the board from 1951-56. His many titles included Museum of Science and Industry trustee, vice-president of the Northwestern University Board and part-owner and chairman of the board of the Cleveland Indians. He also chaired 33 major fundraising drives.

"From 1937 to 1962 he was a director of the United States Steel Corp. and of the Pennsylvania railroad from 1945 to 1964. Most recently, he was chairman of the executive committee and director of Montgomery Ward and Company."

He was given the National Rotarian Award and Loyola University's Damen Award, among others, and was the namesake of the "Philip R. Clarke" carrier ship commissioned for U.S. Steel in 1952. Clarke even threw out the first pitch at the Chicago Cubs' home opener in 1965.

Clarke was survived by his wife, three sons, seven grandchildren, and a legacy that extended even to the place of his Oct. 31 memorial service, McCormick Theological Seminary, where he served as trustee.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean