Polar Research Today:

Bolling Byrd Clarke, 1922-2007, daughter of famed Polar explorer Admiral Byrd and Society board member


1922 - 2007

Bolling helped organize her father’s papers for the Byrd Polar Research Center Archives at Ohio State University. She is shown with a photo of her and her siblings, circa 1920s. 

Bolling Byrd Clarke, 1922-2007, daughter of famed Polar Bolling Byrd Clarke, the daughter of famed Polar explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd and an active member of the board of the Frederick A. Cook Society for a decade, died on November 3 at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.  Bolling (her name was on one of the ships in the early Byrd expeditions to Antarctica in the 1930s) was present last summer when a new US Navy vessel bearing her father’s name was launched in San Diego’s shipyard.  That, her family said, was one of her proudest moments, the other highlight being a visit to the Antarctic in 1989.

Bolling was educated at Windsor School in Brookline, MA. During WWII she volunteered her services to the nation and became a hand on a Maine farm milking cows and tending other livestock. After the war she was employed as a technician at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Anatomy, and went on to become a pre-med student at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore.  Married to William A. Clarke Jr. in 1947 (she was divorced 1969), she cut short her studies to stay home and raise her children, Evelyn Byrd Clarke, Made Ames Clarke, Eleanor Stabler Clarke II and Richard Byrd.

Bolling accepts an award from Society President Warren Cook at the Sullivan County Museum in 1998. 

Below right: With Cook granddaughter Bette Cook Hutchinson at the “Belgica” symposium in 1997.

She was involved in her children’s lives, was the Swarthmore Girls Scouts of America Leader for many years. She was also very active in various civic, religious and educational groups in the Delaware County area including UNICEF, the Women’s International League For Peace and Freedom, Pendle Hill International Quaker Study Center, the Society of Friends Peace Committee and local politics. An avid lover of nature, she always had a keen interest in the protection of the environment.

Two generations of explorers kin at the new location of the birthplace marker for Frederick A. Cook, in Hortonville, NY: Bolling Byrd Clarke, daughter of Admiral Byrd, is flanked by Marcia Hutchinson (left) granddaughter of Dr. Cook, and Bette Hutchinson, one of the explorer’s great granddaughters. Bolling and Society Executive Director Russ Gibbons inspect one of the displays featuring explorers Byrd, Cook and Wilkens at the Ohio State University library in 1999.

In 1967 she became Family Planning Special Projects Coordinator and Medical Councilor in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where she worked for over 20 years, retiring in 1987. After her retirement, she devoted her time to lecturing about her father and traveling as well as serving on the boards of the Richard E. Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University as well as the Frederick A. Cook Society. Her dream of visiting the South Pole came true for her at 67 years of age when she was asked to be a guest lecturer on a 23 day boat trip organized by Society Expeditions, a California tour company. She said, “I finally found out what Antarctica was like and why it appealed so much to Dad. It was absolutely beautiful!”

Donald Winter, Secretary of the Navy, Matron of Honor Marie Giossi, Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s daughter and Ship’s Sponsor Bolling Byrd Clarke at launching.

Copyright 2008 - The Frederick A. Cook Society