'Spook' Clark retiring, but still delivering lessons
Eugene "Spook" Clark, longtime Marshall County sportsman and youth softball coach, recently retired after serving over 56 years with the United States Postal Service in Lewisburg.
At his retirement party at the post office, Spook was awarded an achievement certificate, a Detroit Tigers baseball jacket, a watch, a clock, and many other great gifts.
No amount of gifts or accommodations would be sufficient to award Clark for the work he has done with the thousands of young girls he has coached and mentored during his 25 years of service to Marshall County girls youth softball.
Spook Clark will be back once again this season to begin season number twenty-six, coaching the senior league girls with the same enthusiasm as always.
Clark, born just outside of the Marshall County line in Culleoka, is a living landmark for sports, volunteerism and is the founder of girls softball in the Little League.
Pottsville was where the young Clark began to play sports, participating in a slow pitch softball league as fifth grader.
In 7th grade, Clark's family moved to Chapel Hill where he would eventually stay for the rest of his school days. He was a letterman in football, baseball, and basketball at Forrest, graduating in 1952.
Clark, who wore a number 12 Rocket football jersey, remembers himself as a skinny 125 pound kid that was not that big, but very fast.
"I remember playing both ways at halfback and at cornerback for Coach Charles Neighbors. I rarely ever came out of a game. I was not that big, but I was fast and I was not afraid to stick my nose in there," said Clark in a recent interview at his home in Lewisburg.
Clark remembers his first touchdown on a 60 yard interception return his sophomore year and also that year he watched College Football Hall of Fame member Johnny Majors run one back for 70 yards versus the Rockets in a game at Lincoln County.
"My next year, my junior year was the 1950-51 season and I remember that we were un-scored upon our first five game and we were 9-0 when Majors, now playing for the Huntland Hornets came to Chapel Hill. It was one of the biggest crowds ever in Chapel Hill, standing room only. They beat us 35-18 to win the Duck River Valley Conference championship. There were no playoffs then, so our season ended in that game," said Clark.
Huntland would go to win the state title that year.
Clark got his nickname Spook in his senior year when he took a handoff from Forrest quarterback Red Logue versus Cornersville, faked left and broke down the sidelines, outracing the defenders for a touchdown in a 26-0 win over the Bulldogs.
Clark smiled and explained, "In the end zone after the touchdown, Joe Henry Capley, our left end said to me. You looked spooked when you came up through there. From there the name Spook stuck."
According to Clark, baseball was his favorite sport and he told this story about a game at the old Eastside Park. "I remember the first time I came up when I hit a ball deep to right field and I knew it was going to be a homerun and I started running around the bases and I saw Coach Neighbors holding me up at third base. I could not believe it until coach told me that the ball had bounced off some big rocks out in right field, right back into the outfielder's glove."
Clark went to work at the post office in the fall of his graduating year and except for a two-year stint in the Army from July of 1956 to July of 1958, he remained there until last week.
Clark was married to his wife Anna on Dec. 1, 1960 and they had a daughter Shannon in January of 1973.
Clark continued to play recreational football and baseball during the time until Shannon was 12 years old and Clark formed and coached the first girls softball team in the Marshall County Little League in 1985.
"I remember that we had 12, 11, 10, 9, and 8 year old girls all on the same team. I think there were about three teams at the time, but H&S Pharmacy has been sponsoring my team ever since. They have been the only sponsor I have ever had. I know that I am the only one who is coaching from back then," Clark recalled.
The league eventually grew into what it is today and during that period; Clark has remained involved with the senior league girls. He has won 6 state titles with the Spookettes, including a trip to the southeast regional in 2003 when Spook's team came up one game short of moving on to the Little World Series.
Clark, who fractured his right kneecap on a fall on the job last September is recovering well and should be able to perform his famous "Spook Jig" after ballgames once again this season.
Asked about his years coaching so many different girls and when he thinks he may finally retire, Clark answered, "If I could get all the girls I have coached together in one room, they would fill an entire gym. My first girls are now in their thirties. I am coaching many of their daughters now."
About retiring, Spook ended the interview, saying, "I don't know when I will leave. They will probably have to roll me out a wheelchair before I am done."