After his rise, fall, and rise again, here's hoping that Kelly Clark found peace in the end

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

After his rise, fall, and rise again, here's hoping that Kelly Clark found peace in the end

If you weren't around in Oregon politics in the late 1980s, it would be hard to understand how big a deal Kelly Clark's disgrace was.

I was in high school, and he was my state representative. I was part of a group of kids already causing some political trouble, so we had a bit of a front row seat.

Rep. Clark had it all -- the brilliance, the charm, the looks, the savvy, and that rare aura of "the one" -- that told everyone around him that he was going to be Governor, Senator, maybe even more.

And for Republicans in Oregon, he might have been their last real shot at that kind of greatness.

And then came the collapse. It was stunning. Shocking, really.

And that might have been it -- just another disgraced politician with a problem with the bottle. Another disgraced politician with a guilty plea. Another disgraced politician who went from "has a shot" to "has been" in a flash.

Until Kelly Clark's second act.

I can't say it any better than the O's Steve Duin:

The person Kelly Clark eventually decided he could live with was the guy who sat and wept over the stories of other addicts on Saturday mornings. The guy who believed Christians should, like Pope Francis, have "a bias, a soft-spot, if you will, for the downtrodden, the outcast, the broken."

The guy who could collect his comfort with the spotlight, his righteous sense of good and evil, and his love of drama, and place them in the service of those who had been sexually abused as children.

[Defense attorney Stephen] Houze sums it up rather well: "He used his considerable talents as an attorney to champion the causes of the powerless in as selfless a manner as I have ever witnessed."

After his disgrace, Clark spent years pounding on the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church, and the Mormon Church, demanding that they unseal the records of abuse, reveal the names of the abusers, and reform their institutions. And, rather often, he won.

He died this week, less than month after his wife died. He was just 56.

We'll never know what the original Kelly Clark would have become, but I feel fairly certain the second Kelly Clark achieved more good in this world than the first one could have hoped.

Rest in peace.

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