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The popular city figure dies of congestive heart failure at 90 on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Former Mayor Bud Clark in the Fat City Cafe — where he famously fired Police Chief Jim Davis — in 2019.Colorful, retired tavern owner and former Portland Mayor Bud Clark passed away at 90 on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

As first reported by KATU News, Clark died of congestive heart failure, according to his daughter.

"I am deeply saddened to learn of former Portland Mayor Bud Clark's passing," Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie said. "Bud was the first mayor I worked with. We found common ground in working to address homelessness. Bud Clark had boundless love for the City of Roses. May his memory be a blessing."

Clark served as mayor from 1985 to 1992. Before and after, he was well known as the founder and owner of the Goose Hollow Tavern in Southwest Portland. He unexpectedly became mayor after upsetting incumbent Mayor Frank Ivancie in the1984 primary election with 54% of the vote.

As mayor, he supported building the Oregon Convention Center and helped expand mass transit, including the MAX system.

The Portland Tribune profiled Clark after he retired in 2007. The story, headlined "Still mayor to many," said John Elwood 'Bud' Clark spent the first few years of his life in La Grande before moving to Portland in 1937 with his mother, a recently divorced woman determined to start over.

He got the nickname Bud because his mother called him "my little Buddy."

Clark and his mother lived in various parts of the city, but eventually settled in Northwest Portland in time for him to graduate from Lincoln High School in 1949.

"I really liked Northwest best — everything was within walking distance," Clark said.

Uncle Sam called

Growing up as an only child, Clark convinced himself that friends and family were more important than material success. But he also was patriotic, like many Americans who came of age in the shadow of World War II.

"I was very gung ho back then," Clark said at the time, recalling that in the late 1930s, he and a number of childhood friends formed a group called the Blue Eagle Patrol to watch out for invading Nazis.

After graduating high school, Clark enlisted in the U.S. Marines, eager to serve in the widening Korean conflict. Perhaps fortunately for Clark, his captain already had served a tour of duty there and was more realistic. He blocked the young Marine's efforts to be deployed to the combat zone, something Clark appreciates today.

"He knew more about what was going on than I did," Clark admitted.

Clark said that he felt adrift after leaving the Marines. He came back to Portland, attended Reed College briefly, then just took off in the spring of 1960.

"I didn't really have any goals. I just hitchhiked around the country," he said.

One day Clark found himself in the Big Sur area of California without any money. Hungry and broke, he walked into a tavern and said he would work for food. The offer turned into a series of jobs, and Clark discovered he liked restaurant work, especially bartending, where his gregarious personality helped him hit it off with customers.

Still unsettled, Clark began exchanging letters with Joanne Walker, a woman he knew from high school. After a while, she talked him into returning to Portland, then drove her Volkswagen down to California to bring him back. They married in March 1961.

"Joanne saved my life," Clark said.

It started with Spatenhaus

After returning to Portland, Clark continued working in various restaurants, including the former Jerry's Gables just south of downtown. With Joanne working for United Airlines, they scraped up $1,600 and bought the Dot tavern across from the downtown Civic Auditorium when its owner got injured and decided he couldn't return to work.

The Clarks reopened the tavern as the Spatenhaus in October 1962. Clark said he had to borrow $100 that first day to buy a keg of beer and make change for customers.

Tragedy struck the next month when Joanne was killed by a drunken driver.

"I was in shock and just kind of wandered the street for a year. Friends ran the tavern for me," Clark said.

After recovering from the loss, Clark threw himself back into work, and the tavern became a popular downtown watering hole, attracting workers from the nearby offices, government buildings and a thriving neighborhood a few blocks south. He also met Sigrid Fehrenbacher, a violinist with the Oregon Symphony.

They married in February 1964 and moved to the Multnomah Village area. Sigrid had a son, David, from a previous marriage, whom Bud adopted. The Clarks then had two sons of their own, Jason and Nicolas.

But when daughter Rachel was on the way, they decided to find a bigger home. They were looking in the suburbs when a real estate agent suggested they stop by a large house near Northwest 22nd Avenue and Northrup Street that had just come on the market.

"It was a former brothel, and the seller was desperate for someone to buy it before the madam moved back in. We took a look and decided it was perfect," Clark said.

Urban renewal closed bar

When Clark and his wife purchased the Spatenhaus, they did not realize that plans already were in the works for its destruction. Some business leaders had long ago decided the neighborhood to the south was a blight on the city that needed to be replaced.

They began putting their plans in motion after former Multnomah County Sheriff Terry Schrunk was elected mayor in 1956.

As mayor, Schrunk helped persuade the voters to create the Portland Development Commission as the city's urban renewal arm in 1958. By 1966, the City Council had designated the neighborhood and adjacent property — including the location of the Spatenhaus — the city's first urban renewal area.

"It was like a miniature Brooklyn, more dense than Northwest Portland is now. And it was all torn down to make way for high-rise apartment towers," Clark said of the South Auditorium Urban Renewal Area, the first Portland Development Commission project.

Clark lost his lease on the Spatenhaus in May 1967 when the city acquired the property to build the Ira Keller Fountain, named after the first PDC board chairman. Clark and Sigrid had bought Ann's Tavern at Northwest Jefferson Street and 19th Avenue a short time earlier as a second business. Clark said that when the Spatenhaus closed, many of the regular customers shifted to the Goose Hollow Inn, mixing with neighborhood residents, including artists living in what was then an inexpensive part of town.

Barkeep turned candidate

Clark became a familiar neighborhood figure over the following years, bicycling to work and greeting neighbors with his distinctive, "Whoop!"

He also plunged into neighborhood politics, a passion shared by many Portlanders, partly in reaction to what was seen as the backroom deals that produced the South Auditorium Urban Renewal Area — largely seen as creating a barrier between downtown and the Willamette River. He helped found the newspaper that became the Northwest Examiner and joined his neighborhood association.

Under Clark's management, the tavern gained a reputation as a socially conscious business. Long before the state started banning smoking, the Goose Hollow Inn featured Smoke-free Mondays. Meat-free Tuesdays soon followed to tout the benefits of vegetarian dining.

After Schrunk suffered a heart attack and decided not to run for re-election, neighborhood activists rallied behind city Commissioner Neil Goldschmidt, who was elected mayor in 1972.

Goldschmidt led the successful effort to kill the so-called Mount Hood Freeway, which would have cut a wide swath through the neighborhoods of east Portland. When some of the freeway funds were diverted to the first TriMet light-rail line, a transformation in the city's thinking seemed to be complete.

But after Goldschmidt left City Hall to become President Jimmy Carter's transportation secretary, the next election was won by Commissioner Frank Ivancie, a Schrunk ally.

Unlikely mayor

Ivancie's 1980 victory prompted liberals to begin searching for a candidate for the 1984 election. Although Clark seemed an unlikely choice, his lack of political experience proved an asset when Ivancie didn't take him seriously and didn't mount much of a re-election effort.

Clark's 1984 primary election victory was the biggest upset in the city's history — a feat recalled 20 years later when former Police Chief Tom Potter almost took the election over well-funded commissioner Jim Fransesconi in the May 2004 primary before crushing him in November.

Clark's two terms as mayor were as unpredictable as his Marine-turned-neighborhood activist background would suggest.

Although initially viewed with suspicion by many in the business community, he supported many of their priorities, including the construction of the Oregon Convention Center and a Fred Meyer superstore opposed by inner Northeast Portland neighborhoods.

At the same time, Clark pushed the Portland Police Bureau to be more responsive to city residents and eventually appointed Potter chief because of his commitment to community policing. Perhaps most famously, he fired Police Chief Jim Davis during a meeting at the Fat City Cafe in Multnomah Village for refusing to obey a direct order related to a bureau budget request.

Another major accomplishment was the adoption of the first formal city plan to end homelessness.

Most Portlanders remained enchanted with Clark and re-elected him in 1988 over 11 opponents, including Ron Still, Ivancie's police chief.

The full Portland Tribune profile can be found here.

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