Published Thursday, 01-Feb-2007 in issue 997
Nov. 10, 1945-Jan. 19, 2007
Longtime community activist Michael Clark, who was known around town both for his warm heart and his brilliant political mind, passed away Jan. 19 of lung cancer.
Clark, a fifth generation San Diegan, received his doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of California, Davis and headed the San Diego Pet Hospital in Lemon Grove, a family business which he took over from his father.
Clark was appointed chair of the California Veterinary Medical Board by Gov. Pete Wilson, and served on the board for 10 years.
Along with his love for animals, travel and collecting art, Clark had a lifelong passion for politics. An openly gay Republican who served on numerous boards and commissions and fund-raised for AIDS and other charities throughout his adult life, he helped found the first gay and lesbian nonpartisan political action committee in San Diego, the United San Diego Elections Council, in 1980.
“By ’74 or ’75, all different kinds of [gay and lesbian] organizations were springing up around the U.S.,” said attorney Robert Lynn, a fellow co-founder of USDEC and a former president of the San Diego Democratic Club. “ … The Republicans, on the other hand, were in a dramatic state of denial, and that’s when the Log Cabin [Republicans] group started, to work within the party to make change. … When he [Clark] became part of USDEC, he was really making a statement that the Republicans should get involved in the [gay political] process.”
City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez, another co-founder of USDEC, said Clark’s participation gave USDEC “legitimacy as a nonpartisan organization,” and called Clark a community trailblazer and pioneer. He said he admired Clark not just for his extensive political and historical knowledge but for being out in the 1970s and ’80s when being openly gay – and Republican – was an uphill battle.
“He was just a really wonderful, nice guy,” Murray-Ramirez said. “A gentle soul.”
Clark was active in the Republican Party, serving on the party’s state central committee and as a convention delegate for Ronald Reagan twice, in 1980 and 1984. He also served on the board of the local chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans from 1984 to 1994 and served as chapter president in 1995.
Former San Diego Mayor Susan Golding appointed Clark to her transition team following her election in 1992 and then appointed him to the San Diego City Zoning Appeals Board, which he served on throughout her two terms as mayor, from 1993 to 2001. Golding also appointed Clark as chair of her Gay and Lesbian Advisory Board in 1995.
In the early 1990s, there was considerable effort by gay and lesbian community leaders to get members of the community elected or appointed to boards and commissions because it was not commonplace, said Tony Zampella, a former president of the Log Cabin chapter who also served as commissioner on the city’s Human Relations Commission. He added that there was a push around that time to moderate the Republican Party by having openly gay Republicans serve in as many capacities as possible within the party, not just in the Log Cabin group, and because of that it was significant Clark was elected chair of the California Republican League – the moderate, pro-environment and pro-choice wing of the Republican Party – in 1996.
In addition to his political involvement, Clark was knighted by the Imperial Court for his many years of service in the GLBT nonprofit charity organization.
“What I always enjoyed about Michael was his ability to move between the many dimensions of his life – as a gay man, a Republican, a veterinarian,” Zampella said. “He had many dimensions to his life, and he really navigated the world well. He was a really good spirit.”
Clark is survived by Charles “Skip” Andrews, his partner of 23 years, who lives in San Diego, and by an aunt, Ruth Patton of Los Angeles.
A private memorial service will take place Saturday, Feb. 4, and a community memorial and celebration of Clark’s life is tentatively scheduled for April.
Donations in Clark’s name can be made to the Foundation Chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity, Inc., 3330 Founders Rd., Indianapolis, IN 46268.