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Deena Clark papers

 Collection 0019-MMC-LAB

Deena Clark (1913-2003) was a writer and broadcast journalist who worked primarily in Washington, D.C., television. Before going into television, Clark freelanced as a writer and was heard on local radio station WRC with a program called Capital Bylines. She made her television debut as a guest moderator on Meet the Press in 1954. On WRC-TV, Clark began doing five-minute interviews as fillers between daytime programs. Eventually, Deena Clark… A Moment With became a half-hour program that ran from 1961 to 1974. WNBC-TV in New York carried the program for much of the 1960s. Clark moved to WTOP-TV (a CBS affiliate) with The Deena Clark Show, a similar program that ran from 1974 to 1984. She retired in the mid-1980s, after over 20 years on the air, ending Washington's longest-running talk show with a woman interviewer.

The Deena Clark papers contain a wide variety of material from Clark's broadcast career and her personal and family life. Materials include correspondence, photographs, artifacts, and clippings. The papers date from her childhood in the mid-1920s to 2004, the year of her death. The bulk of the papers follow the peak of her broadcast career in the 1960s and 1970s.


  • 1920s-2004
  • Majority of material found within 1960s-1970s

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

This collection contains audiovisual materials. Items that cannot be used in the Special Collections reading room or are too fragile for researchers require that a digital copy be made prior to use. If you would like to access these materials, please contact us prior to your visit, so we may determine the proper steps to be taken.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder. Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


60 Linear Feet (40 record storage boxes)

246 Tape Reels ; 240 7" magnetic tape reels and 6 5" magnetic tape reels

16 Film Reels ; 16mm

86 Tape Reels : Magnetic Videotape Reels ; 1"

108 Sound Discs : Phonographs ; 13"

75 Tape Reels : Magnetic Videotape Reels ; 2"

226 Videocassettes (18 record storage boxes) : U-Matic 3/4", 1 Betacam, 1 VHS

1 Sound Cassettes : 1 audio cassette

Scope and Content of Collection

The Deena Clark Collection contains a wide variety of material from Clark's broadcast career, as well as from her personal and family life. Materials include correspondence, program files, photographs, artifacts, clippings, and audio/visual recordings. The collection dates from her childhood in the mid-1920s to 2004, the year of her death. The bulk of the collection follows the peak of her broadcast career, in the 1960s and 1970s.


Deena Clark was born Ruby Constandina Speliakos in La Jolla, California in 1913. After graduating from San Diego State University she accepted a teaching position at an elementary school in Hawaii, and traveled there on a steamer ship in 1932. She met the man who was to become her husband, Blake Clark, on the ship en route to Hawaii. She was active in Honolulu society, and she was befriended by former territorial governor of Hawaii, Walter Frear and his wife. Deena and Blake Clark were married in the garden of the Frear house, in Honolulu. The Frears maintained a lifelong friendship with the Clark family, and much of their correspondence relays information about Hawaii in the days of territorial status and early statehood.

Clark and her husband moved from Hawaii in 1942, and both attended Vanderbilt University, where she earned a master's degree in English. While her husband finished his degree she traveled with a dancing group through South America, performing and interpreting traditional Hawaiian hula dances.

During World War II, Clark modeled for the John Robert Powers Modeling Agency in New York. She modeled current fashions, as well as women's military support uniforms. She moved to Washington in 1944, where she was secretary to the director of the Stage Door Canteen. After the war ended, she experimented with an acting career in an off-Broadway production entitled Viva O'Brien!. The production had a brief run in Chicago, but was cancelled due to unfavorable reviews.

Before breaking into television, Clark worked as a freelance writer and did some radio work. National Geographic published her articles about Paris, La olla and Iceland in the 1950s.

Clark had her television debut as a guest mediator on Meet the Press in 1954 with John F. Kennedy as a special guest. As her career expanded, she was host of NBC's Deena Clark: A Moment With, as well as The Deena Clark Show on CBS. While working for NBC, she also wrote a column for The Diplomat, called "Deena Clark's Social Sparks." She retired in the early 1980s and remained active on the Washington social scene for many years. Clark was a member of the Chevy Chase, Sulgrave and National Press clubs, and the Philhellenes Society.

A star athlete in high school, Clark had a lifelong passion for swimming. At the age of 58, she swam the Corinth Canal, a connection of nearly four miles between the Ionian and Aegean seas in southern Greece. She was the first woman on record to have done so.

Her marriage to Blake Clark ended in divorce, in 1973. In 1977, when she was 64, she traveled to Turkey and fulfilled a childhood dream: to swim the width of the Hellespont, the current-driven strait between the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara known in modern times as the Dardanelles. Thousands of onlookers cheered as she made the crossing in 63 minutes.

Deena Clark died on August 1, 2003, in Sibley Memorial Hospital of Washington, DC. Survivors include a daughter, Nikia Clark Leopold of Ruxton, Maryland.


This collection is arranged into eight series.

  1. Series 1: "Deena Clark: A Moment With..."
  2. Series 2: General Career Files
  3. Series 3: Correspondence
  4. Series 4: Subject Files
  5. Series 5: Clippings
  6. Series 6: Photographs
  7. Series 7: Audiovisual Materials
  8. Series 8: Artifacts

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Deena Clark Collection came to the University of Maryland Libraries in two installments. The bulk of the collection was donated to the University by the Nikki Clark, the daughter of Deena Clark, in March 2004 following her mother's death.

A smaller portion, a total of 20 linear feet, of the collection was transferred to the University of Maryland libraries from the City Museum of Washington, D.C. in January 2004.

Processing Information

Initial processing of a portion of the collection was undertaken at the City Museum of Washington, D.C. At the point that both parts of the collection were received at the Univerity of Maryland Libraries, they were integrated. The print materials and photographs were placed in acid-free folders, arranged into series and ordered alphabetically. The A/V materials were arranged into series according to format and indexed alphabetically in order to facilitate access.

The collection's audiovisual materials were re-inventoried by Adam Gray in 2017. Caitlin Rizzo revised the finding aid in preparation for ArchivesSpace migration in 2017, including altering series/subseries, correcting extents, and editing descriptive information.

Guide to the Deena Clark papers
Processed by Melanie Brown.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2007-04-15: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Karen E. King.
  • 2012-09-25: EAD markup checked and verified using Oxgen software by Joanne Archer.
  • 2017-04-26: Audiovisual materials inventoried and re-processed by Adam Gray. Collection extents corrected, custodial history and processing information expanded, and series/sub-series scope and content notes revised by Caitlin Rizzo.
  • 2021-11-12: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract; Sam O’Donnell updated gendered language.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742