John R. Clark, a 1980 Gonzaga University School of Law alumnus and one of the most respected criminal defense attorneys in Spokane, spent his entire 30-year career providing vigorous, compassionate defense services to a wide variety of defendants. Clark passed away in 2010 after a long battle with cancer. Now, Clark’s friends and family are establishing an endowment in his name through Gonzaga Law School that will provide Spokane public defenders with assistance in repaying their student loans.
In 2010, the Spokane Bar Association presented Clark with the Smithmoore P. Myers Professionalism Award. The annual award honors individuals who demonstrate exceptional commitment to the practice of law. Clark’s passion for the law started when he was just 15 or 16. After being told he could not get his driver’s license until he was 18, the “Perry Mason” fan decided that “someone needed to stand up for people – like him – in court,” explained Superior Court Judge and Gonzaga Law alumna (1982) Ellen Clark, John’s wife.
Throughout his years practicing law, John Clark was well known for his belief that everyone deserved a second, third, or even fourth chance. Clark coordinated the pro bono representation for the “Spokane 17,” the protesters arrested on July 4, 2007 during a demonstration in Riverfront Park. In 2009, Clark appeared at the hearing of a 25-year-old suspect who held him at knifepoint during a robbery – to ask the judge for leniency.
“John believed members of the bar have a responsibility to assist, teach, and mentor young attorneys,” explained Ellen Clark. “He encouraged many law students to go into criminal law, and he believed in the need for strong public defender offices.”
To honor John R. Clark’s memory, the endowed John R. Clark Loan Repayment Assistance Program will provide student loan repayment assistance relief to a select number of Spokane-based Gonzaga Law School graduates who are working as public defenders.
This will allow students to follow their passion for public defense without the burden of law school debt payments. The John R. Clark Loan Repayment Assistance Program will begin accepting applications for the inaugural group of recipients in mid-January.