Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Clark Adams, RIP

I received the unfortunate news this morning that Clark Adams has died, and that he took his own life.

Clark was a long-time board member of the Internet Infidels (and for many years its public relations director) and a frequent speaker and attendee at atheist, freethought, humanist, and skeptical events. He was a jovial, funny man whose talks about atheism in popular culture were always crowd-pleasers. He was not particular about what label to put on his nonbelief, and was supportive of all groups that promoted rationality and critical thinking, including the "brights"--though he did not care for what he called "religion without the god stuff."

In a recent posting in which he gave his opinion of last month's celebration of 30 years of Humanist chaplaincy at Harvard University, he described himself as a "conference junkie," noting that he attended "upwards of a half dozen atheist, humanist, skeptic and freethought conventions a year." He frequently spoke to freethought and atheist groups on college campuses, and was an active promoter of student freethought groups like the Secular Student Alliance and the Campus Freethought Alliance. He was one of the founders of the Secular Coalition of America and regularly helped organize the annual July gathering at Lake Hypatia, which is where I first met him. The frequency of his speaking schedule can be seen in an April 2006 posting on the Internet Infidels Discussion Boards, which showed him giving six talks in April, June, and July, which included talks on "How to Prevent Your Freethought Group From Looking Like a Funeral" and "Godless Role Models."

Suicide always provokes questions about the cause. Given Clark's activism in support of atheism, I won't be surprised to see opportunistic speculation on the part of some advocates of religion that Clark's atheism was why he killed himself, but there's no evidence to support that.

He attended a performance by his favorite comedian, Doug Stanhope, on Sunday evening, and was found by a friend and his ex-wife in his apartment after the friend did not receive her expected daily call from him. She announced Clark's death on the Internet Infidels Discussion Boards, where his friends have left their condolences.

Clark has left a mark on the world in the lives of people he's met at these conferences, and communicated with online. He's left an extensive record of postings, which he usually closed with "THOUGHTfully Yours, Clark," which includes the story of his deconversion to atheism in the south.

If anyone has a video record of any of his presentations, it would be great to see them made available online.

Clark will be missed.

UPDATE: Cathe Jones has put up a tribute to Clark, with some links to some of his writings. She has put up a more extensive blog entry now, as well.

UPDATE: Friends are also leaving tributes on Clark's MySpace page, and there are blog tributes from Friendly Atheist and Mark Vuletic.

UPDATE (May 24, 2007): The American Humanist Association has issued a tribute to Clark.

UPDATE (May 25, 2007): Information about a memorial service for Clark will be posted at the Las Vegas Freethought Society website. His ashes will likely be scattered at Lake Hypatia at the June 30-July 2 event he was scheduled to emcee.

UPDATE (May 27, 2007): Raul Martinez has put up a story about an amusing experience with Clark a few months ago.

UPDATE (May 31, 2007): There will be a memorial service for Clark from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, June 3 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Las Vegas, 3616 E. Lake Mead Blvd. There will also be a memorial service at the Lake Hypatia event mentioned above, at 12 noon on Monday, July 2.

UPDATE (June 7, 2007): Eric Pepke has put up a tribute to Clark.

UPDATE (May 25, 2008): Clark's MySpace account has been deleted, but this story in the Las Vegas Weekly reports what happened after Doug Stanhope heard about Clark's death:

A few days later, he receives word that longtime fan Clark Adams killed himself the night after the Tommy Rocker’s performance. Not that it pushes him over the edge; more apparently, it provided a high note upon which to take his leave. In Adams’ MySpace “Heroes” box, he’d included Doug Stanhope under the heading, “People I Admire that I’ve Had the Honor of Meeting.”

There’s a bit on 2002’s Die Laughing: “Life is like animal porn. It’s not for everybody. ... Life is like a movie, if you’ve sat through more than half of it and it’s sucked every second so far, chances are it’s not gonna get great right at the very end and make it all worthwhile. No one should blame you for walking out early.”

And there’s a new entry in Adams’ Comments box from one Doug Stanhope:
I don’t believe in Heaven but I have a strong faith that there is MySpace in the afterlife and we will all be checking our comments.

May your eternity be free of Macy’s gift-card spam.
Run amok, dear sir.

life is like animal porn ...
Even if he’s not the best man for the job of deregulating their lives, Stanhope clearly empathizes with those regular people he speaks for, if not always with. He may be solely in it for him, baby, but whether he’s flitting from Vegas to Bisbee or Edinburgh to the Oval Office, he’s pushing the physical and mental and comedic boundaries for all those Joe Schmoes out there who can’t. No drunken goof about it.
At a show in Indianapolis, Stanhope started to talk about Clark Adams (at 4:26), but got distracted and didn't come back to it (at least in the first three of twelve parts on YouTube).


Unknown said...


it's rare for me to find other Stanhope fans.

I always found Clark entertaining on the board


Lippard said...

Vince: Clark wasn't the only one--I'm also a fan of his work.

Clark was entertaining in person, as well. He was an enjoyable person to be around.

Anonymous said...

thank you for your comment over on my site...although a lot of christians might disagree with my thoughts on the topic, i do think clark's death was tragic and i know i attempt to lead a life respectful of anyone who doesn't share the same beliefs I do. i feel awful for any contribution those who are supposed to live a life of love might have had in his depression and death...

Temy said...

I was shocked and saddened today to learn of the death of Clark Adams. I always liked Clark a lot and much enjoyed his company when at Lake Hypatia. His warmth, intellect and humor will be missed. I am very pleased that his remains will reside at Lake Hypatia.
Temy R. Beal

Gajo Filosofal said...

I just listened the new stanhop cd, and Clark got immortalized on it. Now he will live on for one thousand years.

Lippard said...

Awesome! Time to buy and download...

frushtrated said...

With regard to the Clark Adams mention on the Stanhope CD, he does a very cool bit about it and says "Goodbye, Clark Adams" at the end. On the credits on the cover of the CD version he concludes the thanks yous with: "But mostly - Thank You, Clark Adams. There is a little of you in every show that I do, even on the nights where it is just me". It is highlighted in yellow. I didn't even know Mr. Adams, but found the tribute to be pretty damn touching.