Roger Allison Clarke (1917-2016)
Musician and educator Roger Allison Clarke was born in Tacoma, Washington on January 13, 1917. He studied music at Yale University, writing the music column of Yale News and serving as editor of Yale Art Magazine. Clarke was Director of Music at the Westminster School in Simsbury, Connecticut prior to enlisting in the U.S. Army in August 1942.
During World War II, Clarke was first assigned to the U.S. Army Air Corps as an Air Intelligence Officer with a fighter group stationed in England. He later received a transfer to the Allied Military Government (AMG), working with the MFAA at SHAEF Headquarters alongside Monuments Men Capt. James J. Rorimer and Capt. Calvin S. Hathaway. In late 1944 Clarke became a MFAA Specialist Officer working in Reims, France as part of the Zone of Communications. Operating under the auspices of 12th and 6th Army Groups, the Zone of Communications was responsible for an area comprising roughly two-thirds of France. In order to protect the hundreds of churches, museums, and historic monuments within such a large area, the Zone was subdivided into six Base Sections. Clarke took command of the Oise Base Section in northern France. Other Monuments Men assigned to the Zone of Communications were Capt. Ralph W. Hammett, Lt. Col. Daniel J. Kern, and Capt. Walter J. Huchthausen. Clarke remained involved in the inspection and restoration of French monuments until 1946. In recognition of his “services rendered in the preservation of French art and culture,” the French Government named him an Officier of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques.
Upon his return to the United States in 1946, Clarke taught music at the Santa Barbara School (today, the Cate School) in Carpinteria, California. In the early 1960s he returned to France, spending two summers studying advanced French at the Institut Catholique de Paris (the Catholic University of Paris). A natural linguist, Clarke devoted the following years to educating the next generation of multilingual scholars. In 1965 he was named Chairman of the Foreign Language Department at Crane Country Day School, teaching French and Latin to young children up to eighth grade. He also directed the French program of the Summer School of World Affairs in Paris. Clarke’s lifelong affection for French earned him memberships in the Alliance Française de Los Angeles and the Club France-Amérique in Paris.
Music permeated every part of Clarke’s life. For many years, he owned and operated The Gramophone Shop, a successful music store in Santa Barbara, and co-owned KRCW-FM, the first FM radio station in Santa Barbara. During his decades of service to California music education, Clarke worked as Director of the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra, Executive Director of the Lobero Theatre Foundation, President of the Music Society of Santa Barbara, and a prominent member of the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra, the Santa Barbara Civic Opera Association, Music Academy of the West, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
In the late 1980s, Clarke retired to his home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the company of his beloved basset hounds. He remained busy, beekeeping and tending to a thriving garden which included numerous cymbidium orchids as well as roses, artichokes, and green beans.
Roger Clarke died in Santa Barbara, California of February 12, 2016.
Photo courtesy of Yale University.