Legendary weatherman Herb Clarke has passed away on Sunday afternoon, January 8, 2012 at 5:20 pm. Herb, 84, and his wife, Barbara, were residents of Beaumont Retirement Community in Bryn Mawr, PA since 2004. Herb had been in the medical assisted living section for several months. Barbara tells us that Herb died from complications from Alzheimer's Disease. No other details are available at this moment.
Herb Clarke was president of this organization during 1988 and 1989 and served as Chairman of our Board the following year. He has been on our board for over a quarter of a century and was, until the time of his death, Board Member Emeritus.
A memorial service for Mr. Clarke was held at the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. 625 Montgomery Avenue in Bryn Mawr on Friday morning, January 13, 2012 at 11 am.
Listen to Herb Clarke doing Channel 10 news on Tuesday, July 8, 1969. The Dean of Anchors, John Facenda (a member of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia until his death in 1984), was on vacation that day. Filling in was Channel 10's Weatherman Herb Clarke, a member of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. By the way, the booth announcer who was heard on the ID and news open was a very young Jack Jones (before his anchor days).
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The Road from Paradise
The Road from Paradise
In 1984, WCAU-TV, Channel 10, aired an one-hour special entitled"The Road from Paradise," featuring Herb Clarke . The premise of the show was Herb driving from Paradise, PA to the Jersey Shore--well, actually they started a few miles west of Paradise, but who's counting? Herb drove a classic white Mustang borrowed from a collector. The 60 minutes in our video archive comes from Herb's personal VHS collection, which was donated to the Broadcast Pioneers about a year ago. We present here a 4-minute clip for your enjoyment.
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Herbert Spencer Clarke joined WCAU-TV on Monday, November 24, 1958, and held the record as the longest in a continuous assignment of any television weather reporter in a major American television market.
as a young boy
as a high school junior
Herb was born on Sunday, July 10, 1927, in Eden, North Carolina, the fourth child of William Merritt and Adele Pattillo Clarke. He attended local public schools and was graduated from Draper (now Eden) High School in 1944. Service in the United States Navy followed (it was World War II then) and VJ Day found him assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Hancock in the South Pacific Ocean. That was the beginning of a life-long interest in flight and he held a private pilot’s license for many years.
On his return to civilian life in 1946, he attended Pfeiffer University in North Carolina, graduated from there with an Associate in Arts degree in 1947, then entered Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
After completing his junior year in college, he returned to North Carolina where he got his first job in broadcasting at WLOE Radio in the town of Leaksville, the first radio station in Rockingham County. “It was only 100 watts---and it took a good breeze at your back for the signal to go five miles, the sort of place where one did everything including sweeping up before cutting off the lights at night,” Herb once said. He returned to Bowling Green State University in 1949 for his senior year, was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Delta Theta fraternity and managed the college radio station. He graduated in 1950 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism. In 1989 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Eastern University in St. Davids, PA.
At right, Broadcast Pioneers member Herb Clarke
"Pass in Review" television program
WTAR-TV, Norfolk, Virginia
Within two months of receiving his degree, he was recalled to active duty in the Navy where he was attached to the Commander, Amphibious Force Atlantic, assigned to Norfolk, Virginia. There, he assisted in setting up and served on the staff of the Supreme Allied Command Atlantic for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and made his first television appearance wearing a Navy uniform in 1951 on WTAR-TV in a weekly, prime-time series called “Pass In Review.”
He spent two years on active duty during the Korean conflict and, upon his discharge, went directly to WRVA Radio, the CBS affiliate and 50,000-watt station in Richmond, Virginia with the intention of helping to establish sister station WRVA-TV. “It took three and one-half years from the time I arrived in 1952 until we got the TV station on the air,” said Herb. While there, Clarke also served as a reporter and anchor of the early evening newscast on weekdays. In 1957, he became News Director for the station, which at that time did only a 15-minute newscast (ten minutes for news and five minutes for sports and weather). “When you took out the time for the open, close and commercials, we had exactly seven minutes and twenty seconds for news,” stated Herb.
In 1955, Herb Clarke married the former Barbara Cawthorne of Lynchburg, Virginia. Their first child, John, was born in June of 1958 and was five months old when the Clarkes moved to Philadelphia.
Herb began working for WCAU-TV as the “Atlantic Weatherman” on Monday, November 24, 1958. He replaced Bob Feldman, known on the air as Bob Graham. This was less than three months after CBS took over ownership of the station. In between the time of Herb's hiring and the day he arrived, the weather was temporarily done by Broadcast Pioneers member Bill Bransome.
Television then was much different from what it is now. For example, “the cameras, transmitters and other equipment we used then are museum pieces now,” said Herb Clarke. There were also live commercials and it was not unusual for a TV news correspondent to double as an announcer for the commercial, a practice which ended some years ago.
(Left to right) Herb Clarke and John Facenda
On the WCAU-TV News Set
For many years at WCAU-TV, Herb Clarke had just as varied a career as he had in the decade he spent in broadcasting before joining the station. For several years, he covered health and science topics for Channel 10 News, was anchor of the Sunday night News during the ‘60s and 70s, and worked with the station’s team covering the Mummers Parade many years for Channel 10. His coverage of Hurricane Agnes won him the Associated Press State Broadcasters Award for Best News Reporting in 1972, and he wrote, produced and reported numerous special news broadcasts for Channel 10. “When I started doing the weather,” he said, “it was with chalk on a blackboard. I thought magic marker and plexiglass were miraculous. Then we went to magnets – then came satellite pictures and computer graphics”. When he introduced Super Radar to Channel 10 weather reports in 1982, the station became the first in the Delaware Valley to use a computerized display. He retired from WCAU-TV on December 31, 1997, and for the next six years prepared and delivered daily “Garden Reports” on KWY Newsradio.
(left to right) Herb Clarke and then Broadcast Pioneers President Harry Haas
Broadcast Pioneers Banquet
The Adam's Mark Hotel, Philadelphia
Thursday, May 23, 1991
Throughout his television career in the Delaware Valley, Herb Clarke combined an energetic career with a vast schedule of community activities. In addition to numerous personal appearances on behalf of charitable organizations, he served on the Board of Trustees of Presbyterian-University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, as “MC” of fundraising events for the Wills Eye Institute, on the council of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, was chair of the Philadelphia Flower Show in 1987-88-89 and was a member of the Men’s Garden Club of Philadelphia; was Vice-President of the AFTRA Philadelphia Local and served on the Board of Broadcast Pioneers, which named him “Person of the Year” in 1991.
He was a loyal member of the Rotary Club of Ardmore, an elder of the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church and on the board of Presby Homes. Fond of poetry, he often went as a representative of the Church’s Outreach Committee to read poems to residents at area nursing and retirement facilities. A lover of sailing and fishing, he always enjoyed summer trips with his fishing buddies to Canada, sailing with friends in the British Virgin Islands, and spending time with his family at their ‘second home’ on Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia.
(Left to right) Tom Lamaine, Herb Clarke, Sue Serio (top row)
Elliot Abrams, Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz and Kathy Orr (bottom row)
Broadcast Pioneers Luncheon, Bala Golf Club
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The Clarkes lived in Haverford for many years until moving to “Beaumont” in 2004. He and his wife of 56 years, Barbara, are the parents of three children: John G. Clarke (Lyn) of Richmond, Virginia; Robert S. Clarke of Durham, NC, and daughter Ann Clarke Million (Ted) also of Durham, and have three grandchildren: Spencer, Madison and Sarah Grace Clarke. He was predeceased by his sister, Jean Clarke Brewer, and two brothers, William and Dr. L. Gordon Clarke.
Member Robin Mackintosh, formerly of Channel 3 e-mailed:
Sad news. A real gentleman!
Member Peter Defeo e-mailed:
We knew him and he was well respected. Herb will be missed.
Member Richard Maloney, now with SEPTA and former KYW Newsradio reporter said:
Herb was a true gentleman in a business where that is an increasing rare commodity.
Member Joe Pellegrino, former Channel 6 and 10 sports guy and a member of our board said:
Very sad to hear about my Channel 10 colleague Herb.
From the Charlie Gracie family:
He seemed like such a fine gentleman and always the comsumate professional on TV! He will be missed!
Brother Gerry Molyneax of LaSalle University (a member of this organization) said:
Herb was always such a friendly and generous man, especially with young people. I remember how gracious he was when my class and I visited 10 back in 1978 and a liittle later when he visited our department. And who can forget the eloquence with which he described the flower show. He was a class act and a good guy.
Member Gene London said:
I liked him very much. He was a very sweet guy.
Member Paul Gluck who was, at one time, Herb's News Director. Paul says:
Losing Herb is a terrible blow to the local Broadcasting community
and to our organization.He will be missed.
Member Elliot Abrams, meteorologist for Accu-Weather said:
A number of times, Herb was asked what made the weather forecast so important. He said that it was about tomorrow. We want to be here tomorrow. The news and sports are usually about yesterday.
Member Don Hurley e-mailed:
Herb was a real news man....no hidden agenda...who gave the public the news as it was.
George Baylie, former WIBG Newsman and WIFI-FM News e-mailed:
I'm very sorry to hear about the passing of Herb Clarke. He was the very best!
Bill Stephens, a visitor to our website from Lebanon County e-mailed:
I was saddened to learn of the death of Herb Clarke today. I didn't hear about it from any of the Philadelphia TV stations that I can get here in the Hershey/Lebanon area (KYW and WPVI are offered part-time by Comcast, as are WPHL and WPSG). Instead, my mom learned about it from WGAL (NBC-8), Lancaster. Please accept my condolences and please pass them along to the Clarke family.
By the way, the Mustang on your tribute page that Herb was driving is a 1966. The chrome piece behind the driver's door (with the three strips pointing forward from the main body of the trim piece) was only used that year, and that's the easiest way to identify a '66 without looking at the car's VIN number.
Woods Mattingley, a visitor to our website e-mailed from Thailand:
I was a TV cameraman at WRVA-TV in Richmond from 1956-1959, then moved to WAVY-TV, Norfolk. I found your wonderful website and have since downloaded many old-time camera and studio photos, for memory lane.
While at Channel 12, Richmond, I operated a DuMont camera, but when I moved to WAVY, I graduated to a TK-30 RCA. What a difference!
I was one of Herb Clarke's cameramen; don't know if he would have remembered me, but I recall him as a pro and knew he made the right move to Channel 10, Philadelphia. He wore both newscaster and weatherman caps at Channel 12.
...The Channel 12 studio had a large pair of doors which opened from the studio to the parking lot. One night it began to snow. The director and the weathercaster said to throw open the doors, and we shot the nighttime weather show with snow flakes falling behind the weatherman. It was a first for us.
...I...returned to college. I wish I had stayed in broadcast TV, but the ministry ultimately called. I started an educational New Age ministry in San Jose...and eventually taught in Japan, Vietnam and Thailand, where I now live (retired).
A FINAL THOUGHT
By Liz Matt (aka Lizabeth Starr)
After a brief starter-career in broadcasting at Channel 3, I ended up at the late (rarely-remembered) tabloid newspaper The Philadelphia Journal as their TV reviewer/reporter in 1979-80. As we approached Christmastime of 1979, I called a lot of broadcasters to ask about their holiday memories as TV personalities in their stations (in my hometown). Being fairly young, probably 27 years old and still in a romantic phase about my industry in my hometown, I remember being aghast as the avuncular Herb Clarke asked me specifically NOT to write about his holiday memories, as he always associated the day/job with being a disappointment to his family, having to be at the station and not with them.
Then my former Temple U teacher Bob Bradley (who worked at channel 3 in a parallel job to Herb Clarke's at 10) shared with me a withering memory of being a broadcaster on Christmas day: never being home with the kids; a lonely day in the announce booth; no restaurants open and packing lunch.
With my (local) romantic eye about the industry, I never again saw guys like Herb and Bob and Paul Norton the same way. It's not "the army" to be in broadcasting, but there are hidden sacrifices that the viewers will never ever see or appreciate. As broadcasters, we are performers and take some bad with the good. But the folks we love are not "in the business" and sometimes don't understand the lengths we will go to to keep our passions alive while not hurting our families.
As I read about the passing of this man who I see (in my mind's eye) in both his Channel 10 "Atlantic sponsors" hat AND hear reporting about gardens late in his career on KYW, I recalled that phone call from so long ago.
I have one more memory where he DID share his thoughts. We were both on a panel at the library in NE Philly on Cottman Avenue. He mentioned a day when he really understood that reporting the weather was serious business. He recalled giving a weather report for a fair weather (enough) day and a man calling him at the station, enraged, the next day. That man painted big structures and was painting one of the big city bridges at the time. Herb recalled that he hadn't emphasized winds for the forecast and the caller had made a business decision ---to paint --- based on Clarke's forecast. His anger to Clarke was that costly business decisions were based on remarks made by Clarke (and his competitor forecasters) and that he had made a terrible decision to paint on a windy day, which caused some damage to cars passing through the bridge.
Herb said to the small crowd at the library, including me, that he would never see weather reporting the same way again.
That was a wonderful and sobering remark from a man who took his relationship with his (and his station's) audience as a sacred trust. He loved his audience and felt he owed them his best every day.
We are not doctors or coal miners or cops or soldiers, but our audiences treat us as trusted family members. And our REAL family members expect equal respect.