Walter McKenzie Clark

11th NC Supreme Court Chief Justice

Date Born: August 19, 1846

Date Died: May 20, 1924

Place Born: Halifax County, NC

Place Buried: Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC


Chief Justice 1903-1924
Associate Justice 1889-1903

Walter McKenzie Clark was born on August 19, 1846 at Prospect Hill Plantation in Halifax County, NC, the son of David Clark, II and Anna Maria (Thorne) Clark. At eight years of age, he went to Vine Hill Academy near Clarksville. In 1857, he attended Ridgeway School under the supervision of Professor William K. Bass. In 1859, he studied with Professor Ralph H. Graves at Belmont School in Granville County. In August of 1860, Clark entered Colonel Charles C. Tew's Hillsborough Military Academy in Hillsborough, NC.

In May of 1861, Walter McKenzie Clark was selected to drill the state's first group of recruits for the U.S. Civil War. He went with the 22nd NC Regiment when it was sent to Virginia later that year. He joined Colonel Matt W. Ransom's 35th NC Regiment in August of 1862 and served as Adjutant and 1st Lieutenant. Clark witnessed the Second Battle of Manassas and participated in the capture of Harper's Ferry and the battles of Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg. When his regiment returned to North Carolina in February of 1863, Clark resigned his commission and continued his education at the University of North Carolina. He studied with President David L. Swain and Professor William Horn Battle and graduated first in his class in June of 1864. The day after commencement, Walter McKenzei Clark was elected Major of the 6th Battalion, NC Junior Reserves; he fought the next year within the state and became Lieutenant Colonel of the 70th NC Regiment.

After the war, Walter McKenzie Clark managed the family's Prospect Hill Plantation because his father was in poor health and he also supervised the Riverside Plantation near New Bern, which his father had given him.

In 1866, Walter McKenzie Clark studied law on Wall Street in New York and at Columbia Law School in Washington, DC. In 1867, he received his license to practice law in Halifax County and opened his law office in Scotland Neck. The next year he was licensed to practice law before the NC Supreme Court. Also in 1867, the University of North Carolina awarded the increasingly prosperous and prominent lawyer a M.A. degree.

During the summer of 1871, Walter McKenzie Clark traveled widely in the American West. He lived briefly in Halifax during 1872 before moving to Raleigh in 1873. There, he practiced law, managed the Raleigh News, and served as a Director and General Counsel for the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad (R&G RR), and the Raleigh and Augusta Air Line Railroad (RAAL RR).

On January 27, 1875, Walter McKenzie Clark married Susan Washington Graham, daughter of Governor William Alexander Graham and Susan (Washington) Graham; they had seven known children.

Walter McKenzie Clark had a deep interest in North Carolina's history and laws. In 1882, he published Everybody's Book, Some Points in Law of Interest and Use to North Carolina Farmers, Merchants, and Business Men Generally. He compiled an annotated Code of Civil Procedure of North Carolina, which appeared in 1884 and became known as Clark's Code. He compiled and edited the State Records of North Carolina (16 vols., 1886-97). Clark also edited the Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina, in the Great War 1861-1865 (5 vols., 1901). He annotated over one hundred volumes of North Carolina Reports of the NC Supreme Court.

In April of 1885, Governor Alfred Moore Scales appointed Walter McKenzie Clark a Judge on the NC Superior Court; he was subsequently elected to the post in November of 1886.

In 1889, with the addition of two new Justices authorized, Governor Daniel Gould Fowle appointed Walter McKenzie Clark as the second new Associate Justice on the NC Supreme Court. In 1894, he was re-elected.

In 1896, Walter McKenzie Clark refused the Democratic nomination for governor and chose to remain on the bench. In the same year, Clark, a supporter of free silver, received fifty votes for vice-president at the Democratic national convention.

In the 1892 General Election, Walter McKenzie Clark was elected as Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court, beating out existing Chief Justice David Moffit Furches. He served on the NC Supreme Court for thirty-five years and wrote 3,235 opinions. He made the court work efficiently, orderly, and promptly and was prominent in advocating the construction of a new building for the court.

In 1902, Walter McKenzie Clark was President of the North Carolina State Literary and Historical Association.

In 1912, Walter McKenzie Clark fought three of the state's most powerful figures for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate: Governor W. W. Kitchin, former governor Charles B. Aycock, and incumbent Senator Furnifold M. Simmons. He lost to Furnifold M. Simmons.

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Walter McKenzie Clark as an umpire for the National War Labor Board, a position he held through 1918.

On May 20, 1924, Walter McKenzie Clark died, and he was buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC.

Elected Chief Justice in the general elections in November of 1902. Took office on January 1, 1903.

Son of David Clark and Anna M. Thorne. Graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1864. Lt. Colonel in the Confederate Army. Admitted to the bar in 1868. Judge of Superior Court 1885-1889. Author of "Clark's Annotated Code of Civil Procedure." Translated the French version of "Constant's Memoirs of Napoleon (3 Vols.)." Editor of "The State Records of North Carolina (16 Vols.), "The North Carolina Regiments 1861-1865 (5 Vols.), and "Reprints of North Carolina Supreme Court Reports, with Annotations (164 Vols.). President of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association 1900-1901.

Walter McKenzie Clark (1846-1924) was a North Carolina politician and jurist who served as an Associate Justice (1889-1903) and Chief Justice (1903-1924) of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Born in Halifax County, North Carolina, Clark served in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War before enrolling at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduating first in his class in 1864, he returned to the war. In the 1870s, Clark moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, practiced law, and wrote books on law and history. Clark was married on 27 January 1875 to Susan Washington Graham, daughter of William Alexander Graham.

In April 1885, Governor Alfred M. Scales appointed Clark a Judge of the Superior Court, and in 1889, Gov. Daniel G. Fowle elevated him to the state Supreme Court. He was elected to the Supreme Court in 1890, and in 1894, was re-elected with the support of not only his own Democratic Party, but also that of the Republicans and Populists.

Clark was elected Chief Justice in 1902 and re-elected several times. In 1912, he unsuccessfully ran for the United States Senate as a liberal reformer against fellow Democrat Furnifold Simmons. Clark died in office in 1924.

Walter Clark was born in Halifax County, NC on August 19, 1846; graduated at the University of North Carolina in 1864; saw service in the war 1861-1865 (except one year while at the University of North Carolina), attaining the rank of Lt. Colonel.

When the number of the NC Superior Court judges was increased from nine to twelve in 1885, he was appointe by Governor Alfred M. Scales on April 15, 1885 as one of these additional judges. In 1886, the people elected him to this post.

Upon the appointmen of Augustus S. Merrimon as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Governor David G. Fowle appointed Clark to succeed Merrimon as an Associate Justice on November 16, 1889, to which the people elected him in 1890.

In 1902, he was elected as Chief Justice - he was re-elected in 1910 and 1918.

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