Utah History Encyclopedia


By David C. Gessel
J. Reuben Clark, Jr., was the first native Utahn to receive national and international acclaim for his legal and diplomatic skills. He crowned his public career by serving as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico from 1930 to 1933. Thereafter, he served as a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1933 until his death in 1961.

Joshua Reuben Clark, Jr., was born on 1 September 1871 in Grantsville, Utah, to Joshua Reuben Clark and Mary Louisa Woolley Clark. He graduated first in his class at the University of Utah in 1898. While at the university he served as student body president and as managing editor of the student newspaper. He also worked as secretary to Dr. James E. Talmage, president of the university.

On 14 September 1898 Clark married Luacine Annetta Savage in Salt Lake City. They were the parents of three daughters, Louise, Luacine, and Marianne, and one son, Joshua Reuben Clark III. From 1898 until 1903 Clark worked as a teacher and administrator at both the high school and college levels. In 1903 he moved his family to New York City so that he could attend the law school at Columbia University, where he graduated with an LL.B. degree in 1906. Clark excelled in law school and was elected to the editorial board of the Columbia Law Review.

Shortly after graduating from Columbia, Clark was appointed assistant solicitor of the U.S. State Department. He was also appointed as an assistant professor of law at George Washington University from 1906 to 1908. From 1910 to 1913 Clark served as solicitor of the State Department. In between his numerous stints of government service, he opened law offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City, where he specialized in international and municipal law. A staunch Republican, Clark became influential in both Utah and national politics.

During World War I, Clark served as a major in the Judge Advocate General's Officers' Reserve Corps. In this capacity he helped prepare the original Selective Service regulations. He also served on active duty in the U.S. attorney general's office. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his service during the war.

Clark was appointed undersecretary of the State Department in 1928 by President Calvin Coolidge. During his service as undersecretary he published his influential "Clark Memorandum on the Monroe Doctrine." On 3 October 1930 he was named U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, where he served until 1933.

In 1933, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., was chosen as a counselor to President Heber J. Grant of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Clark subsequently served as a counselor to succeeding church presidents George Albert Smith and David O. McKay. As a member of the First Presidency of the Mormon Church for twenty-eight years, Clark had a profound influence on the church. He was instrumental in developing the renowned church welfare system and in improving church finances and administration. He was a forceful and inspirational speaker on both religious and governmental topics. He also authored a number of religious books.

Both before and during his church service, Clark served on numerous corporate boards, government commissions, and political committees. In more than sixty years of service to his country and to his church, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., was recognized for his keen intellect, prodigious work habits, and faith in his country and in his God. J. Reuben Clark Jr., died at the age of 90 in Salt Lake City on 6 October 1961. As a tribute to his long and distinguished service to his country and to his church, the law school at Brigham Young University is named after him.