The Rite Reverend Conrad Clark
By Sled Smith
In 1971 I left Firestone to go to the bailiff bureau at the Brunswick Building. After eight months of law school I quit the department and went into the masonry business. I worked for a friend of mine for a while then went in business for my self. I was away from home more than when I was working at the Stone. In an attempt to avoid a divorce I decided to go back to the sheriff’s department. I got hired off the street on April 09, 1973, four days before my 35th birthday, which was the cutoff. When the sergeant in personnel bureau called Firestone to ask Captain Mear if he would take me. The captain asked what was my name and when he was told SLD Smith he asked to have me report for PM’s that very day. I went to the academy and drew my uniforms then went to the station to go to work.
A short time after I returned I came to work and found I had been assigned to work as watch deputy. I had been hired off the street as a deputy 1 step 1. While at the desk that night for EM shift I started going through the watch deputy routine and noticed that the dispatcher was watching me. I didn’t know many of the deputies because I had been gone for two years. The dispatcher was named Conrad Clark with a nickname of CC. He came over to my desk and asked me how come you as a deputy 1 step 1 are in a supervisory position over me a deputy 3 step 4? I was as honest as I could be and told him that I came in that evening and saw I was scheduled to work the watch deputy slot. I added that I was up there struggling through this work, which I knew nothing at all about. The next evening CC greeted me and said he heard from some folks that I had been at Firestone before. CC and I became really close friends and remain so today.
One night CC and I were working the Willowbrook together both with trainees. He got a 927D call and I rolled over to the location with him to see if I could be of assistance. When we went into the modest little house they were having a small party. The person they called about was named Sylvester and he over 70 and was seated in a Mission style chair with wide flat arms. His right hand was around a cocktail glass, with a fairly large puddle of water around its base. His eyes were closed and he looked as though he may have been asleep. Sylvester’s girlfriend, Aretha, who was about the same age, was quite concerned about him. She was very much afraid that something had happened to him. She said they were only two weeks short of the seven years required living together to become married under common law. We examined Sylvester and found him to have no pulse or sign of respiration. When we attempted to manipulate his hands and arms it became apparent he was in a state of rigor mortis. Further examination revealed his having post mortem lividly horizontally along the lower half of his thighs and down his lower legs and feet. I know in my heart that Conrad felt very sympathetic toward Aretha. The next thing I knew he sent his trainee out to their car to get his bible out of his booking gear. This was one of those golden moments when you see just what kind of fabric a man’s character is made of. The Rite Reverend Conrad Clark was fittin to perform directly from his heart for the benefit of one of his constituents. The trainee returned with the bible and the following scenario unfolded in front of everyone there.
CC explained that Sylvester had died and comforted his girlfriend who was crying and yelling hysterically. CC then proposed to Aretha that he could marry she and Sylvester. She seemed to calm down significantly and listened intently to what CC asked her to do. He explained how in this particular type of ceremony any non-response by one of the participants would be considered an affirmative answer. He gave her specific directions as to just how to complete each step of the process. He then asked each of the betrothed the normal list of questions included within the marriage ceremony. Of course Sylvester was given credit for all affirmative answers. The Rite Reverend Conrad Clark then continued with the ceremony after reading some applicable scriptures. When he reached the completion of the ceremony he asked Aretha to participate in his giving of the oath. She placed her left hand on his badge and raised her right hand as Conrad solemnly administered the oath, “With the power vested in me by the NAACP I now pronounce you man and wife”.
The lady was ecstatic not only because she believed she was now legally married to her deceased fiancée but also because she would now inherit the corpus of his fortune which may have been as much as $70.00 in cash. She would also become the legal owner of his 1964 Chevrolet station wagon. Conrad then proposed that he perform a divorce between them so she would not have to stand the expense of burying him. He explained the required steps to her and once again she had her left hand on his badge and her right hand in the air as he again administered the oath. Subsequent to these ceremonies CC prepared 2 separate officious certificates on the always useful and invaluable SHR 49 forms. This was to memorialize these extremely serious acts that Conrad had performed. I honestly think Conrad helped that lady feel much better about Sylvester’s death. I was sure that I was back at home where I belonged, working with folks who knew just how to reveal the subtle reality of their sense of humor no matter how solemn the occasion.