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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Tuesday, October 10, 2017 by Jo Clifton
Clarke Hammond passes away at 66
Clarke Hammond, 66, a larger-than-life figure in the Austin community, died Saturday following liver surgery. His friend, former Mayor Lee Leffingwell, described Hammond as a man “who lived life large. He probably crammed more life into 50 years than most people do in 80.”
“He did my very first fundraiser with a keg of beer,” Leffingwell recalled. “He was a traditional East Texas politician, a natural politician. He’s always been a good friend.”
Not only did Hammond work for the city at the Austin Municipal Court and then at the Office of the City Auditor, but he also served on both the Board of Adjustment and the Zoning and Platting Commission. He was an active member of the Heritage Society and Friends of Barton Springs Pool, and served as president of the South River City Citizens neighborhood group. Hammond retired from the city several years ago and moved to San Marcos, but kept up with his Austin friends.
Longtime consultant and Leffingwell’s former chief of staff, Mark Nathan, told the Austin Monitor, “‘Bubba’ Clarke was big and boisterous. I don’t think he was physically capable of whispering. We were neighbors for many years and he was a special South Austin character. He was a force to be reckoned with in our neighborhood association and local politics. He loved his old Stetson hat and old pickup truck, which he used to patrol Travis Heights in. He also caused all sorts of trouble during his years at the city, which I think is one mark of a good man.”
Nathan continued, “He’s probably most famous for his longtime role as lead Polar Bear in the annual New Year’s Day swim at Barton Springs, and I know a lot of people will be thinking of him this year when they take the plunge. He was really just such a sweet fellow and will be remembered with great affection by his family and many friends.”
Hammond, whose actual first name was Granville, is survived by his wife, Monica, a number of other relatives and numerous friends.
He was born in Houston and grew up in Dallas, according to another longtime friend, consultant Matt Curtis. Hammond received a Bachelor of Arts from Southern Methodist University and a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Tyler.
Leffingwell recalled that Hammond instigated an audit that revealed that a number of hotels were not paying the Hotel Occupancy Taxes that they owed. As a result of that audit, the city began more stringent enforcement.
Former Council Member Daryl Slusher recalled that Hammond negotiated with Home Depot for large setbacks and preservation of numerous trees on their site at the intersection of Interstate 35 and Woodward Street. As In Fact Daily reported, Home Depot agreed to preserve 40 percent of the site as undeveloped, and not to operate after 10 p.m., in accordance with the neighborhood’s wishes. They also agreed not to build the typical orange box in accordance with the neighborhood’s request.
The funeral service will be this Thursday at 2 p.m. at Angel Funeral Home, 1600 S. First St., 78704. Visitation will from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., preceding the service. Friends and family will hold a reception after the service at Alcomar restaurant, 1816 S. First St.
Photo of Hammond courtesy of Facebook. Photo of City Hall by John Flynn.
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