Scholarship honouring Reg Clarkson

A scholarship is being created at UBC in the name of the late Reg Clarkson, a legendary B.C. athlete and White Rock resident.  - Contributed photo
A scholarship is being created at UBC in the name of the late Reg Clarkson, a legendary B.C. athlete and White Rock resident.
— image credit: Contributed photo

How do you honour the life of one of B.C’s all-time great athletes, a three-sport professional who was a standout in any game he played?

A UBC scholarship will remember Reg Clarkson of White Rock by assisting deserving students who have a financial need and possess above-average athletic ability.

“The award recognizes Reg’s spirit of helping others by preference being given to a student-athlete that has a financial need, a student participating on multiple varsity teams and/or a student that has overcome barriers on their road to be at UBC on a varsity team,” university spokesman John Foster said Thursday.

The exact wording still has to be approved by the university senate.

The family is soliciting additional contributions to the UBC Clarkson scholarship to honour the man described as one of B.C’s “most versatile athletes” in an online account of his athletic exploits.

Clarkson, who passed away on April 16 at the age of 86, was a three-sport professional athlete who went on to become a high-profile activist for the needy.

Clarkson was a standout in football, baseball and basketball until a bout of rheumatic fever damaged his heart and took him off the playing field in his mid-20s.

His wife, Peggy, met him in Calgary, when he was playing professional football.

The good-looking young man with the brilliant smile made a lasting impression. They were married 59 years.

“Reg was just fun,” Peggy Clarkson said. “He had a wonderful life.”

An online UBC account of Clarkson’s athletic career shows that he excelled at a wide range of sports.

In 1944, he joined the UBC men’s basketball team, the Thunderbirds, and helped them take a provincial title.

The same year, he was goaltender for the UBC hockey team and joined the school’s soccer squad for the Imperial Cup provincial playoffs.

“Clarkson’s 1945-46 season may have been one of the most impressive in local sports history,” said a UBC statement issued shortly after Clark’s death.

He played for the 1945 UBC football Thunderbirds, helping them win the Hardy Cup in a two-game series against Alberta.

Clarkson scored two touchdowns in one of the Hardy Cup games during the afternoon, then played for the Thunderbirds basketball team in the evening of the same day.

He helped the UBC basketball squad capture the Pacific Northwest Conference championship.

He also found the time to play goal in Senior A lacrosse and was a Coast League soccer player with Victoria United.

He was named Vancouver’s Athlete of the Year in 1946.

When Clarkson turned pro that year in order to raise funds to continue his education, he became a featured player with the Vancouver Hornets basketball team, Vancouver’s first professional basketball team.

He also played pro baseball, starting with the Vancouver Capilanos of the Western International League.

The .333 hitter went on to play in Pueblo, Colorado in 1947, and Mobile, Alabama in 1948.

And he played football.

In 1949, Clarkson signed with the Edmonton Eskimos in the Western Interprovincial Football Union (later the CFL).

He continue to play semi-pro baseball in Edmonton with the Edmonton Motors club, where he led the league in total bases, home runs, triple runs, double runs, hits, stolen bases, and runs scored, all while setting a .382 batting average.

He was subsequently traded to the Calgary Stampeders football team in 1951.

That was where he met Peggy.

It was also where he was diagnosed with rheumatic fever, which ended his professional sports career.

Clarkson later took up golf and worked his way up to a five-handicap, posting victories in the Island Open golf championships and the overall Island Open final in 1968.

He was an almost daily presence on the links until his last game at Peace Portal in January of this year, when, his obituary records, he “shot below his age.”

After his illness ended his pro sport careers, Clarkson resumed his university studies and obtained a masters’ degree in social work.

He went on to become a well-known activist who fought for fairness in the prison system, welfare reform and women’s rights.

In 1968, as the executive secretary of the Victoria Low Income Group, Clarkson took part in a sit-in at the provincial legislature for welfare mothers.

Clarkson presented a two-page brief to reporters that argued that the then-$200 a month paid a mother with four children was inadequate and amounted to discrimination.

“These mothers on welfare are unemployable and are entitled morally and legally to community help that will help them live normal healthy lives,” he was quoted as saying in the March 12, 1968 edition of the University if Victoria paper the Martlet.

The father of eight, grandfather of 13 and great-grandfather of three is a member of multiple halls of fame.

He was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 1974, into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 1999, and the UBC Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.


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