William Micajah Clark

William Micajah Clark, Sr.


Bill attended private schools in Russellville. After a time at Bethel College, he left school to work for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in Birmingham, Alabama. He worked his way up from a laborer in the yards to a worker in the station manager’s office, where he met his future father-in-law. Bessie B. Millar Tayman and Bill were married in her home on November 14, 1914. The couple honeymooned in Chicago and then returned to live in Alabama, first in a little cottage at the end of the street car line, then with the Taymans.

Bill and Bess had their first two children in Alabama: William Micajah, Jr. and Muriel Millar. In 1921, Bill became a salesman for the Chicago Pneumatic Tool Co. A promotion to district manager in 1924 caused the family to move to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the youngest daughter Betty Anne was born. The depression years affected the tool business and when the Knoxville office closed in 1931, Bill was transferred back to Birmingham. A year and a half later, Bill was jobless. He quickly found work with the Caterpillar Tractor dealership in Nashville, Tennessee and the Clarks lived there for almost a year. However, when the invitation to return to Knoxville and work for a friend’s Caterpillar Tractor Co. was offered, the family moved. Having lost all of his investments in the crash and his savings in a bank failure, Bill worked extra hard to recover his losses.

A sympathetic observer might comment on the series of losses that followed Bill Clark all through childhood; or he might rejoice over the many family members who loved and cared for Bill each time death uprooted him. Bill was born to Oswin Ashby Clark and Mary Stewart Morton in Russellville, Kentucky. His mother died of tuberculosis when Bill (also called Will or Red) was just 2 ½ years old. Bill and his father moved in with his Clark grandparents Micajah and Elizabeth. When Bill was 10 years old, his father died. Four years later, Bill’s grandmother passed away. Left in the care of his 75-year old grandfather, Bill’s Aunt Lena Clark King, a widow with four children, moved into the Clark household. She supported her father, nephew, and children, including a blind adult son, by working at the post office.

In 1936, Bill cashed in several insurance policies and started his own machinery company. Bill fell ill in August of that year after returning from a trip to Lebanon, Tennessee. He died the next morning, August 20, at home. He was 43 years old and his wife was left with 18 year-old Billy, about to start college, and Muriel and Betty, just 15 and 11 years old.

Bill’s life ended as it had begun, with family members pitching in and caring for one another. Bess downsized to a two-bedroom apartment and sold off her cars and much of the furniture. Billy and Muriel both worked part-time to help make ends meet; and when Betty Anne graduated from high school, she also took on part-time work. Together they managed to make it through the lean times, obtain educations, and help purchase a family home, once again. When the children married and moved away, Bess lived with her kids, first with Muriel in Kingsport, Tennessee; then with Billy in Terre Haute, Indiana; and finally with Betty Anne in La Follette, Tennessee until she passed in 1988 at the age of 93.