Thursday, November 27, 2014

Uncas Norvell Clary (1881-1972)

Portrait from the Denton Record Chronicle, February 7, 1965.

   Today marks a return to the Lone Star State to examine the life of one Uncas Norvell Clary, one of the longest-serving mayors in Texas history. While I've become accustomed to profiling elected officials who served just one or two terms in office, I was quite taken aback when I discovered that Mr. Clary served as the Mayor of Prosper, Texas for 49 years!! From 1914-1963 this once small rural Texas town (now a prosperous suburb) was led by a man whose first name is also that of the prominent Mohegan Indian chieftain, Uncas, perhaps best known by some as a character in James Fenimore Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans."
   Despite being such a longstanding figure in the counties of Collin and Denton, Texas, Uncas N. Clary wasn't born a native Texan. His story begins in Bedford County, Tennessee, where he was born on December 19, 1881, the eldest of five children born to Benjamin and Maggie Norvell Clary. The Clary family removed to Texas when Uncas was two and several years after first moving to Texas settled in the then small unincorporated town of Prosper. Clary would attend schools local to the area and is recorded by the Denton Chronicle as having graduated from the local high school in the class of 1900.
   In 1909 "U.N." Clary first became affiliated with the Prosper State Bank, taking on the position of book-keeper. He would maintain an active role in the bank's management for a total of 56 years, and at the time of his retirement in 1965 was remarked  as being "one of Texas' oldest bankers in point of service." He assumed the presidency of the Prosper State Bank in 1929 and continued to hold that post until his retirement.
   One cannot mention the lengthy mayoralty of U.N. Clary without first giving a small backstory as to the origins of the town he led for so many years. Formed in 1902 from the merger of two other settlements (Rockhill and Richland), the town of Prosper came into being due to the construction of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad. The town remained an unincorporated settlement until 1914 when townspeople voted not only to incorporate the town but also to elect a mayor. Uncas N. Clary was the man voters selected to be the inaugural holder of that office, and so began a near half-century tenure as Mayor of Prosper.

                          Mayor Clary as he was pictured in the April 14, 1963 edition of the Denton Record Chronicle.

   Clary would continue to be reelected "each time by write-in votes" and the Record-Chronicle notes that he was unopposed for that office at every election, except for "one lone instance." Clary married during his term in March 1927 to Virginia Maud Talkington (1892-1945) and following her death remarried to Vera Elizabeth Thompson (1900-1986) in June 1947. In addition to serving as mayor, U.N. Clary was an active Mason and member of the First Methodist Church, also busying himself as a coin collector and "amateur photographer". He and his wife would also enjoy traveling, visiting AfricaEurope as well as other states outside of Texas.
   In April 1963 Clary stepped down as Mayor, bringing to a close a mayoralty that had extended for almost 50 years. He continued with his banking interests until his retirement as bank president in February 1965. Uncas Norvell Clary died at a McKinney, Texas hospital on May 16, 1972 at age 91. He was survived by his second wife Vera and was later interred at the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Rhea Mills, Texas.

Clary's obituary from the May 17, 1972 Denton Record Chronicle.

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