An extraordinarily kind, intelligent and accomplished man died unexpectedly in his sleep Saturday, July 27, 2019. He loved UNC basketball, peaches, Nicaragua, his horse, jazz clubs and ice cream. Lt. Col. Paul Coe Clark Jr. US Army (ret.), 82, a Vietnam veteran, career soldier and college professor, of Southern Pines, died of a heart attack while in Hilton Head, S.C.
He was born June 1, 1937, in the Candor house of his father, the peach grower and banker Paul Coe Clark Sr., and his mother, Lorrie Ingram Clark, a 1922 graduate of Andrew College who in 1923 traveled by train from Sutton's Corner, Ga., to Candor to teach.
Paul was a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who received his doctorate in Latin American studies from the University of Alabama in 1988.
After retiring from the Army, he taught for eight years at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., of which he was also a graduate. He also taught at Hampton University, the College of William & Mary and Old Dominion University.
He was the author of two books: “The United States and Somoza, 1933-1956” and (with his academic mentor Dr. Edward Moseley) “Historical Dictionary of the United States-Mexican War,” the definitive reference work on that war.
During his Army career, Paul was a paratrooper, a Ranger and a Special Forces member.
After enlisting in the Army, he went through OCS at Fort Benning, Ga., and was commissioned. He commanded a rifle company in the 101st Airborne Division — the Screaming Eagles — at Fort Campbell, Ky. His battalion was reassigned to Vietnam to strengthen the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which became the most highly decorated unit in the war.
Paul participated in the only major U.S. combat jump of the Vietnam War — Operation Junction City — in February, 1967. It was the largest combat airborne jump since 1945.
His Jumpmaster wings bore the coveted bronze star that indicated a combat jump.
During his second tour in Vietnam, he served as adviser to a Vietnamese Army combat battalion in the Mekong Delta. During a fierce attack by the enemy, he earned the Silver Star for gallantry. Among his other awards were the Bronze Star Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal, the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantry Badge.
After the war, Paul completed Special Forces training at 38, alongside soldiers a decade his junior. He commanded a company of 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, including a deployment in Iran and winter combat training in Alaska.
Paul then learned Spanish and became a Foreign Area Officer. With his family, he for years was stationed in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Peru, where he graduated from the Peruvian War College. He traveled to every country in Latin America, the last being Cuba, a lifelong dream.
In 2001, Paul moved to his family’s 450-acre farm in Sutton’s Corner to begin his third career, raising Tennessee Walking horses. On a trip to New York City he met his second wife, Pam, a Texan. After 15 years on the farm in Georgia, they moved to Southern Pines to actually retire. Paul loved riding his horse, Viajero, gardening, playing a little golf, and traveling with Pam. He was a member of Kiwanis Club, Lions Club, NAACP, St. Anthony Hall, an alumnus of Virginia Episcopal School and an Eagle Scout.
Paul was very patriotic and generous and put great effort into helping those in need. He was diligent at maintaining contact with his widely scattered friends and family. He was an avid reader with a sharp mind and diverse intellectual interests.
He was predeceased by his first wife, Mary Lynn; and his sisters Ann and Lorrie.
He is survived by his wife, Pamela Wavell Clark, his son, Paul Coe Clark III, three stepdaughters, Cecile Santini (Derrick), Loring D. Baker, Brewer Baker; and one grandson, Loring’s son, Holden Pagona; and his friends, who will never forget him.
A celebration of Paul’s life will be held Sept. 14, at 2 p.m. at the Congregational Church of Pinehurst, 895 Linden Rd. Paul will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery at a date to be announced. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Doctors Without Borders.