Biography of William H. Clare
Will County, Il Biographies





William Henry Clare, American real estate operator and politician, was born at Joliet, Ill., Sept. 15, 1868, and died there Dec. 14, 1923. He was a son of John Clare, who was born in 1828 and died in 1873, and of Margaret (Flannery) Clare, a daughter of Bartholomew Flannery. This branch of the Clare family was established in America by John Clare, who emigrated from County Tipperary, Ireland, in 1845, settling at Goshen, Orange County, N. Y.

William Henry Clare received his early education at the Eliza Kelly School, at Joliet, Ill., but the greater share of his education was obtained by night study. He was a newsboy at the age of ten, selling newspapers at the corner of Clinton and Chicago Streets, Joliet, and the fact that 40 years later he owned the building occupying that corner is but one of many picturesque features of a life that was brilliantly successful through sheer force of ability, appealing personality, and hard work. At 13 years of age he was engaged as a wire worker at five dollars a week, and 40 years later he occupied the important government post of collector of the port of Chicago under appointment by President Wilson. His record is filled with such spectacular contrasts, but the fact that it was a record built by perseverance and sheer pluck is evidenced by the fact that he started in a real estate office at the age of 15 years and at 21 years had saved the 2,000 with which he started in the real estate and insurance business for himself.

Mr. Clare was associated in the real estate business with his brother, George J. Clare, and together they engineered some of the most important real estate transactions in Joliet, including the purchase of the Lincoln Theatre Building, the St. Nicholas Hotel, the property at Jefferson and Scott Streets, and many other valuable tracts in the loop district. He was known as a keen business man and a shrewd judge of real estate values, and he was particularly distinguished by his loyalty to and love for his native city of Joliet. It is said of him that his belief in the future of the city was so strong that he confined his operations exclusively to Will County. He conducted his real estate business from the Will County National Bank Building and in the course of the years he spent as a real estate operator built up a large clientele. He was likewise interested in the Will County National Bank and was for many years one of the directors.

However, while continuously active in the real estate field Mr. Clare's connection with local and state politics was sufficiently extensive to have occupied the full time of a less able and resourceful man. For a period of 30 years he was one of the leading Democratic politicians of this state, although he seldom sought office for himself. He was, however, city treasurer of Joliet, for one term, and he was in 1915 a candidate for mayor of that city. In that election he obtained the majority of the men's votes, who were outnumbered by the women's vote. This was the first contest under the commission form of city government, which Mr. Clare and the men voters vigorously opposed when previously submitted for adoption by the city of Joliet. The mayoralty election was defeated, and which election in no way reflected upon the personal popularity or general fitness of Mr. Clare for the office. Not long afterwards he was appointed by President Wilson as collector of the port of Chicago, an office he filled for four years with characteristic ability, but of which he said he would have exchanged the entire four years for one week as mayor of Joliet.

Upon the death of Roger Sullivan, the Democratic state leader, Mr. Clare was generally regarded as his logical successor, but when approached by a group of the most influential men in the party and asked to take over the control of the party organization he firmly refused. The position carried with it a degree of power and prestige that would have appealed strongly to most men, but as it entailed his leaving the city of Joliet Mr. Clare found it no temptation. He continued his work with his party in his native city, one of its most active leaders and wisest councillors, and one whose years of public service honestly earned the affection and respect of his fellow citizens.

Mr. Clare's devotion to his home city was said by his friends to have been bound up in his exceptionally strong family affections. Left without a father at an early age and forced to find work wherever he could in order to assist his mother, he and his brothers and sisters formed the closest of fraternal affections. The loss of his brother, Frank Clare, was a grief that he felt most keenly the remainder of his life. He was survived by two brothers, John Clare and George J. Clare, and two sisters, Mrs. Katherine Clare Lowery, and Margaret Clare, all of whom reside in Joliet. He had never married.

Speaking of Mr. Clare's character after his death, Rev. Father Van Pelt said: "He was an honor to the community and to the city of Joliet. He was a selfmade man, a poor boy whose ambition was to succeed in life, and he did it by an honest, upright course. He placed a goal before him and attained it honestly. He was an exponent of the highest kind of charity. Only those who knew him well knew the many, many charitable deeds he performed. He often said to me that if I knew of any needy to send them to him and he would help them, and many of the respected and prosperous men of today are those whom he helped when they were down and out."

A business associate in speaking of him said: "His heart always beat in the interest of humanity. He was unostentatious in his charities, unstinted in his purse, his chief and supreme delight being in aiding, encouraging and helping his friends."

In an informal article, designed as a character sketch rather than as the regulation obituary notice an old friend and newspaper man wrote of him: "* * * He had to fight for everything he got from his kid days up and died a winner. He rose to the top because he possessed the qualities that make men rise above their fellow men in leadership. * * * I never knew a man who had more friends. He loved friends and loved to help them. Their number includes folks from every walk of life; in every strata of social and business life. I never knew him to refuse a favor * * * He was just that way - a kindly, simple soul who got his kick in life out of seeing everyone around him happy and contented while he went on through a simple, frugal routine. * * * He was my idea of what I would like to see in every American - a decent, honest, God fearing man who loves life, family, friends and his home city."

From:
History of Will County, Illinois
By: August Maue
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis 1928


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