In memoriam: Charles Elias Clark '47

Charles Elias Clark

Yale Law School Professor Emeritus Charles Elias (“Eli”) Clark ’43 B.A., ’47 J.D., ’58 M.F.A., died on June 11, at his home in Hamden, Connecticut. He was 89.

A specialist in the field of law pertaining to the transfer of family wealth, Clark was the Lafayette S. Foster Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School, a longtime master of Silliman College at Yale and a World War II veteran.

“Eli Clark was an inspirational teacher and an invaluable mentor to generations of Yale students,” said Michael Graetz, the Justus S. Hotchkiss Professor Emeritus of Law, and a longtime friend and colleague of Clark at Yale Law School. “He was an indefatigable, and often indispensible, citizen of the law school and the university. His work on trusts and estates and their taxation educated students across the nation. Eli was a great storyteller, a raconteur — always with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. Most importantly, he was a kind and gentle man and a loyal friend, a man who reveled in his family.”

Clark was born in New Haven on Aug. 19, 1921, the son of Judge Charles E. Clark and Dorothy Gregory Clark. He attended New Haven public schools and graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1939. In 1943, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale College with a B.A. degree in American history. From 1944 to 1945, he flew C-47’s as a pilot in the Army Air Corps, participating in paradrops in Holland and Germany. After the war, he returned to Yale for a law degree, which he completed cum laude in 1947. He later earned a Master of Arts degree from Yale in 1958.

He began his law career in 1947 as an associate in the New York City law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Friendly and Cox, where he served for two years. In 1949, he joined the Yale Law School faculty as an assistant professor to teach a course in estates. Known for his storytelling, lecturing style and wry sense of humor, he was widely respected as a teacher, and his estates course remained popular for more than 40 years.

He also specialized in property, family law and estate taxation. ??He was named a professor of law in 1958 and the Lafayette S. Foster Professor of Law in 1969.

In 1951, with Boris Bittker, he inaugurated the Bittker-Clark Bar Review Course, a three-week series of lectures to help prepare individuals for the Connecticut Bar Exam. He continued teaching that course until 1977, enlisting such noted guest lecturers as constitutional law scholar Alexander Bickel and Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Ellen Peters.

In 1962, he accepted an appointment to be the master of Silliman College at Yale, a position he held until 1981. During his mastership, he became deeply involved in the administration of Yale College and served on many of its boards and committees. As chair of the Council of Masters from 1967 to 1970, he was involved in the integration of women students into the colleges and in developing a plan to prepare the University for the May Day demonstration in 1970.

He was named the Lafayette S. Foster Professor Emeritus and Myres S. McDougal Professorial Lecturer in Law in 1991. He retired from Yale Law School in 2004 after more than 55 years of service.

Clark’s major works consist of two casebooks of which he is co-author: “Gratuitous Transfers” (fourth edition, 1999) and “Federal Estate and Gift Taxation” (eighth edition, 2000). He also authored numerous articles and served as editor of the Connecticut Will Manual for 35 years.

For his exceptional contributions to the field of estates and probate law, he received an Award of Excellence from the Estates and Probate Section of the Connecticut Bar Association in 1992. For distinguished service to Yale and the community, he received the Mory’s Cup in 1987.

Active in various programs to reorganize state government, Clark received the Connecticut State Bar Association’s Distinguished Public Service Award in 1959 for work that resulted in the creation of a state-supported minor court system in place of the former local courts. He was also one of the first appointees to a newly created Connecticut Board of Mental Health, serving from 1957 to 1968 and for three years as chair.

He was a member of the Distribution Committee of the New Haven Foundation from 1969 to 1976 and a member of the boards of directors of the Foote School Association, the Day-Prospect Hill School, the Hopkins Grammar School, the New Haven Legal Assistance Association, the English Speaking Union and the Incorporators of the Elizabethan Club of Yale University.

Clark is survived by his wife of 64 years, Ann Atkins Clark; seven children: Charles E. Clark (Karen), Katharine Jensen (Ron), Susan Love, Robert T. Clark (June), Dorothy Chadwick (Terry), Annie Clark (Dave Thomas), and William R. Clark (Jennifer); 11 grandchildren; and four great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at on Friday, June 24, at 11 a.m. at Battell Chapel, 400 College St.

Contributions may be made in Clark’s memory to the Annie and Elias Clark Scholarship Fund, Yale University Office of Development, P.O. Box 2038, New Haven, CT 06521-2038. The scholarship was set up by former members of Silliman College in honor of Annie and Elias Clark.