The Clark Gable Foundation
Origins and Aspirations
On February 1, 1983 a radio disc jockey from Quincey, Ill. called the United States Post Office in the small Eastern Ohio town of Cadiz. The question to postman Pat Frazier was, "Do you know whose birthday it is today?"
Pat answered honestly that he did not and was informed by the deejay that Feb. 1 was Clark Gable's birthday! He then asked what Cadiz, Ohio was doing to commemorate the birth of its most famous son.
That was the last time "nothing" was the answer.
The following year a local women's organization, DISTAFF, organized the first annual "Clark Gable Birthday Celebration," held Feb. 1, 1985. Despite a terrible ice storm the day before, the party was a smashing success with over three-hundred townspeople and devoted fans in attendance.
The 1985 celebration was the first organized attempt to commemorate Gable's hometown connection. However, some time prior to that a group of local citizens concerned with the terrible economic slump enveloping the town and county, met to discuss tourism. Cadiz, once known as "The Proudest Small Town in America" because of its many famous sons including Gen. George Armstrong Custer, was highly dependent on the bituminous coal industry.
In the late 1970s due to a softening demand for ecologically polluting high sulfur coal, the mines began to close. At one point in 1985 the unemployment rate for Harrison County reached over 25%! The town experienced all the social problems that occur with high unemployment and population loss.
Some were convinced that the tourism potential of its beautiful topography, historical figures and strategic location near several major population centers was ripe for development. They were also quite embarrassed that no memorial to Clark Gable existed in his hometown. In fact they couldn't even point out the house in which he was born. That house on Charleston Street in Cadiz was razed in the early 1960s.
Three business and professional men from Cadiz, Mike Cope, Jon Kirkland, and Chuck Peterson were friends and concerned about the decline of the community. Meeting informally one evening in 1984 they dreamed of an organization dedicated to preserving Gable's memory. They believed this would spur tourism interest in Cadiz and Harrison County and they set about forming what Jon thought should be called "The Clark Gable Foundation."
Not long after that other members were enlisted.
The group's first goal was to erect a monument on the site of his birth. With this in mind and through the cooperation of the Worley family who owned an interest in the land on which the house once stood, the Foundation was granted an interest in the property.
In a few months, over seven-thousand dollars was raised locally and Saturday Feb. 1, 1986 with great expectation and national media attention, the monument was dedicated!
The following year the Foundation assumed the birthday celebration from DISTAFF and the momentum began. Since then it has hosted thirteen birthday celebrations and three "barbecues."
In December 1988 the Foundation was able to make contact with Mr. Fred Crane who accepted an invitation to attend the next Birthday Celebration Feb. 4, 1989. Fred played Brent Tarleton in Gone With The Wind. That contact with Fred and Anita Crane opened the door to its "California Connection" including Mr. Bill Tomkin who had worked for many years at MGM Studios in the film archives department. These people helped us make contact with other members of the GWTW cast which made Foundation events even more successful.
The next event was "The Twelve Oaks Barbecue" in June 1989 commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Gone With The Wind. The Foundation was able to host four of the original cast members including Cammie King, Butterfly McQueen, Patrick Curtis, and Mr. Daniel Selznick, son of legendary director David O. Selznick. Since then the Foundation has invited celebrities from Gable's films to attend as guests of honor for each of its "Birthday Celebration" held the Saturday nearest his birthday, annually. In 1991 the guests were Gable's only son John, and his stepdaughter Joan Spreckels. In 1992 the guests were Ann Rutherford and Rand Brooks, the actress and actor who played Careen O'Hara and Charles Hamilton in GWTW.
In 1991, the nonprofit Clark Gable Foundation received a sizable bequest from a local woman's estate. Isabelle Clifford was a Gable contemporary and lived just down the street from the house where he was born. She loved her hometown and was proud of its history. Her generosity and forward thinking gave the Foundation the seed money so essential to reach its goal.
On Jan. 31, 1998, the Foundation hosted another dedication. On that Saturday Mr. John Clark Gable stood on the front porch of the reconstructed birthplace! He said, " I can't believe its finally built. I'm just ecstatic!" He then cut the ribbon and entered the house, to see the second floor bedroom in which the man he never knew was born.
The Foundation recognizes the continuing national fascination with Clark Gable and his films. Time-Warner/ Turner Entertainment owns the rights to most Gable's 67 talking pictures. He and his legacy will be constantly renewed with each viewing of classics like It Happened One Night, San Francisco, Call of the Wild, and the greatest motion picture ever made the immortal Gone With The Wind !" Through his motion pictures, his heritage can be preserved and enhanced by concentrating that history in Cadiz, Ohio, for all to view, learn, and enjoy!
Turner Entertainment though its chief operating officer, Mr. Roger Mayer, has agreed to provided stills and films for the Foundations use at the house! Soon a photographic display of his cinematic triumphs will grace the walls of the house in which he was born.
How fitting that the man who died 58 years ago is still helping his home town! Undoubtedly that reflects the reality of the man....Clark Gable. His success in large part came because he was real. He personified the image that America and Americans believed was theirs. He was a "man's man" and though at times a bully, always real and compassionate. He was the "King of Hollywood" and unlike many of the icons before and after, his image has never been tarnished and he never disappointed his fans.
It was very fortunate for tiny Cadiz, Ohio, the American Film Industry, and America itself that William Clark Gable was born Feb. 1, 1901 on Charleston Street.