Huntsville native Larry Gene Clark lived near Spring Branch in the southwest part of the city. As a boy he would hunt, fish and trap along that creek.
On Dec. 9, 1967, the Marine celebrated his 21st birthday. On Feb. 4, 1968, Lance Cpl. Larry Gene Clark, a fire team leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Division, died in action in Vietnam. His mother, Loise, accepted the Bronze Star in his honor.
The bridge on Drake Avenue, just west of Memorial Parkway, will be dedicated in Clark’s honor on March 8 at 2 p.m. The Drake Avenue bridge at Huntsville Spring Branch will be named the Lance Cpl. Larry G. Clark Memorial Bridge.
Vietnam-era veteran Jerry Cox of Huntsville is responsible for getting the city resolution for this dedication.
‘It was just something I felt like I needed to do,” he said.
Cox, 76, from Dryden, Virginia, graduated from Lincoln Memorial University in 1966 with a bachelor’s in math and received a job offer from NASA. He arrived in December 1966 to work at Marshall Space Flight Center. After six months on the job, he received his draft notice from his native Lee County, Virginia.
“I was drafted in ’67 and stayed to ’69, and the Good Lord sent me to Germany instead of Vietnam,” Cox, who left the Army as a specialist five, said. “I served from June ’67 to June ’69.”
He went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for basic training and then to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for engineering individual training.
After Fort Leonard Wood, the Army sent many of his fellow trainees to Vietnam but Cox went to Hanau, Germany, instead. He spent 19 months with the U.S. Army Engineer District, U.S. Army Europe. He said he enjoyed his work, mostly with German citizens, and his time in Germany. He traveled Europe. He said his most memorable event was riding the Army train from Frankfurt through East Germany to Berlin and standing at Checkpoint Charlie at the Berlin Wall.
Cox returned to his position at Marshall Space Flight Center where he had a long career as an engineer and a project manager and he retired in 1995. In June 2019 Cox joined with two of his high school classmates in Dryden to seek the naming of a bridge, on a Virginia state road, in memory of another classmate who was killed in action in Binh Dinh Province in South Vietnam on May 30, 1966. That 23-year-old Soldier was Sgt. John Robert “Swanson” Riddle with the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. Cox and the other classmates were all Army veterans.
On July 16, 2019, Cox returned to Virginia to appear before the Lee County Board of Supervisors to urge the passing of a resolution and a request to name the bridge for his high school classmate. The three classmates had provided the information on Riddle for the resolution. In November 2019 the bridge was formally dedicated.
Cox returned home to Huntsville with thoughts of a similar effort in this city. He talked with a friend, a city employee, who gave him Clark’s name in fall 2019. He did some research and got information from past editions of The Huntsville Times.
Cox attended a city council meeting that December and asked if an ordinance prohibited naming a bridge after an individual. In January 2020 he again appeared before the city council to follow up on his inquiry. City Administrator John Hamilton, a retired colonel, told Cox he would research that and get back to him. That February a city department head called Cox and asked him to provide the city with information to be included in a resolution to be presented to the city council for their approval of the bridge naming. The city council approved the resolution March 12, 2020, and Mayor Tommy Battle signed it.
“I’m just ecstatic about it because this Marine was a true hero,” Cox said.
The Huntsville resident since December 1966 and his wife, Judith, will celebrate their 50th anniversary Friday. They have a daughter, Dionna Byrom of Huntsville, and a grandson, Billy Joe Mullins.
Editor’s note: This is the 309th in a series of articles about Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.