Dr. Alpha "Doc" Clark PBB Collection, 1951, 2022, and undated
Using These Materials
- Dr. Alpha "Doc" Clark PBB Collection is open for research.
- Clark, Alpha, Dr.
- This collection includes 15 cubic feet (in 30 boxes, 1 Oversized folder) of PBB-related material of Dr. Alpha “Doc” Clark.
- 15 cubic ft. (in 30 boxes, 1 Oversized Folder)
- Collection processed and finding aid created by C. Niehaus, N. Brabaw, M. Matyn
- Scope and Content:
This collection includes approximately 15 cubic feet (in 29 boxes and one oversized folder) of PBB-related material of Dr. Alpha “Doc” Clark. This significant collection is of critical national and international historical research importance of PBB related materials. The collection is in original order and includes: court documents, mostly depositions and exhibits for many court cases at various levels; correspondence and memorandum between Doc Clark and farmers, physicians, clinicians, lawyers, and state and other officials involved in the PBB crisis; human* and animal medical test results; publications, including magazine and academic journal articles, parts of books, reports, and numerous clippings (copies) from Michigan newspapers and magazines; and two VHS videotapes. There are also photographs in the collection, which are of particular importance as they document the results of the direct consumption of PBB on the bodies and internal organs of animals, mostly cows and calves, but also laboratory monkeys, fish, birds, pigs, beagles, family pet dogs, and other farm animals which either ate contaminated feed or were exposed to it through the manure of affected animals. (Note: *In 2021 Archivist Marian Matyn obtained permission from Hughston family members to retain and make available for public research the family’s medical test results, of living and deceased family members. Copies of the permission form are in the relevant Hughston family folders in Box 9.)
Of particular importance are the several documents detailing the aftermath and remediation procedures undertaken by the state, insurance agencies, and other involved parties to clean up PBB contaminated sites. This includes documentation of the logistical operations of moving and slaughtering contaminated livestock and products to a secure dump site located in Kalkaska, Michigan. For example, Exhibit #356 in Box 10 is the State of Michigan Environmental Impact Study for disposal of PBB cattle in Kalkaska, 1974. There is additional information about the waste dump site located near the former Velsicol Chemical factory in St. Louis, Michigan.
The numerous letters, correspondence, and memorandums between farmers of McBain and Falmouth, Michigan, and Doc Clark prove the close personal connections and friendships he had with them. Many of the various documents and other pieces of evidence within the collection were sent to Doc Clark through these friendships, or from others involved in investigating the contamination and resulting litigation. It is through these correspondence, and the rich variety of materials in the collection, that researchers will gain an impression of the overall character Doc Clark’s character, as someone trustworthy and knowledgeable. Memos, notes, and other documentation in the collection in Marlene's handwriting, demonstrate her significant support and contributions to this history.
The exhibits within the collection were used to support some of the numerous claims and cases that were filed after the resulting PBB contamination. One case of vital importance to note was that of the Tacoma farm. Many other class-action lawsuits (of which the materials within this collection document and support) were comprised of several farmers filing on the same suit, in the hopes of receiving compensation for their loss of livelihoods, resulting from the forced destruction of thousands of animals and animal food products. Also included are papers from the State of Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission hearing of Wm. Oeverman v. Gary P. Schenk, File No. 3044183 (in Box 20.) Gary Schenk was a Grand Rapids attorney who represented the farm families.
The collection also includes PBB herd test results, organized by farmer name. These test results come from numerous sources with varying degrees of information. Additionally, many different publications which Doc Clark accumulated and retained for PBB reference purposes are also in the collection, including: conference proceedings and presentations, journal and magazine articles, newspaper clippings and political cartoons, and books. The collection also includes material related to PBB poisoning or testing in Montana, China, England, France, Germany, India, Israel, the Netherlands, and Scotland. Box 30 includes Veterinary Examinations from Robert Benson’s herd. Notably that two cows were autopsied at Purdue University.
Note: In 2021 the surviving Hughston family members signed a permission form allowing their and their deceased family members’ PBB test results to remain in this collection and be available for public research. Copies were filed in the front of each relevant folder.
The majority of the collection is in good, readable condition sans a bit of dust. Many papers had to be pulled from the collection and photocopied due to rust, water, staining, or other damage. Strategic decisions were made to retain documents that were mildly stained, ripped or torn due to the large volume of photocopying that would be necessary. Good quality photocopies were retained in the collection. All of the photographs in the collection were archivally sleeved to ensure their integrity, and damaged photographs were copied and sleeved.
The collection is organized by series, exhibit numbers in numerical order with Doc Clark’s reference information in the folder label; PBB herd test reports by farmer name, and newspaper clippings (to be copied).
Abbreviations on the folder labels include the following: FB, FBu Services; MCC, ; MDA, Michigan Department of Agriculture; MDPH, Michigan Department of Public Health; MSU; MDNR, Michigan Department of Natural Resources; MDHEW, Michigan Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
The following court cases have at least some material in this collection: Box 1: U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, FB Bankruptcy Case #84-01478-G; State of Michigan Circuit Court, Wexford County, Roy and Marilyn Tacoma v. MCC No. 2933; Box 9: State of Michigan Circuit Court, Missaukee County, William C. Hughston v. MCC No. 77-000745; State of Michigan Circuit Court, Missaukee County, Will C. Hughston and Bonnie M. Hughston, individually and doing business as Bill Hughston and Sons v. MCC et al. Civil Action No. 77-000 745; Supreme Court of Michigan, PBB Litigation Case No. 60519; State of Michigan Circuit Court, Kent County, Ronald Creighton and Janette Creighton v. Northwest Industries, INC. et al. No. 77-23552NP Complaint for Damages; Box 13: State of Michigan Circuit Court, Kent County, Dale R. Sprik v. Farm Bureau Services Case No. 75-18562-NZ; Box 15: State of Michigan Circuit Court, Kalkaska County, Kalkaska Board of Commissioners v. State of MI Dept. of Agriculture Case #74-619 (testimony on the White Water site); Box 16: State of Michigan Circuit Court, Missaukee County, Gary and Lois Zuiderveen v. MCC #75-000580-NZ; State of Michigan Circuit Court, Missaukee County, Kenneth Zuiderveen v. MCC #75-000579-NZ; State of Michigan Circuit Court, Wexford County, Roy and Marilyn Tacoma v. MCC #76-2933-NZ; State of Michigan District Court, Western Division, District of Michigan, Southern Division, Ingham County, Michigan Farm Bureau v. New Hampshire Insurance Company #G74-372-CA5; State of Michigan Circuit Court, Missaukee County, Roy and Marilyn Tacoma v. MCC #75-000585-NZ; Box 17: State of Michigan Circuit Court, Chippewa County, Hale v. MCC No. 75-2402-NZ and 76-2537-NP; State of Michigan Circuit Court, Missaukee County, Tacoma v. MCC #75-000-585-NZ; U.S. District Court for Western District of Michigan, FB v. Northwest Industries, Inc. No.G-75-225 CA 5; U.S. District Court for Western District of Michigan, Eddington v. Northwest Industries, Inc., Civil Action No. M-75-74 CA 3; U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Case NO. 82-0651-W, FB Debtor; Box 18: State of Michigan Circuit Court, Kent County, Kretzman v. FB File No. 74-16383-CE-NO; State of Michigan Circuit Court, Missaukee County, Tacoma v. MCC #75-000585-NZ; United States District Court, Western District of Michigan, Eddington v. Northwest Industries #M-75-74-CA 3; State of Michigan Circuit Court, Lenawee County, Knisel v. FBS #2684 NP; Court of Appeals Docket No. 43323; State of Michigan Circuit Court, Wexford County, No. 76-02933-NZ (Tacoma case); State of Michigan Circuit Court, Missaukee County, No. 76-000585-NZ (Tacoma case); Michigan Eastern District North Division (Bay City), Bankruptcy Case #82-00651; Box 20: State of Michigan Circuit Court, Missaukee County, No. 77-000745 Hughston v. MCC; U.S. District Court for Western District of Michigan, Southern Division, FB v. New Hampshire Insurance Co., File No. G-74-372-C (counterclaim); Box 19: State of Michigan Circuit Court, Wexford County, Tacoma v. MCC #76-2933-NZ.
Processing Note: Approximately 1 cubic foot of duplicates were returned to Dr. Alpha Clark as per the donor form.
About 1.5 cubic feet of the collection consisted of newspaper clippings which were photocopied and are set to be returned to Dr. Alpha Clark as per his request in the donor form. These newspaper clippings were organized alphabetically, rather than by exhibit number, because not all of the provided newspapers had an associated exhibit number.
- Biographical / Historical:
Dr. Alpha "Doc" Clark: Dr. Alpha “Doc” Clark II was born in 1934. He attended the Covert one-room school house in Sears, Michigan, now downtown Barryton, graduating from Barryton High School in 1951. While attending Michigan State University (MSU), Doc met his future wife Marlene Evelyn Peterson while attending a Church of God church in Lansing. They were married in 1956. Together they had three children: Alpha III, David, and Linda, who is also a veterinarian who works with her father. He earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from MSU in 1958. Doc serviced farm animals (mostly cows) in the Missaukee, Osceola, and Wexford counties area, Michigan, during the PBB mix-up of the 1970s. He played a pivotal role in documenting the contamination and consequences of exposure, especially in cattle. he also served as a friend, confidant, and voice of reason in the ensuing litigation and controversy. Puzzled by the increasing number of ill and dying cattle, Doc Clarke sought to discover the source of the mysterious herd ailments in his community. Increasingly frustrated with dying, ill, and disfigured animals, the abuse heaped upon the farmers, and answers from state officials which did not fit with what he was witnessing, Doc Clark took his own necrotic tissue samples from animals who died from PBB, without knowing it was PBB, and sent it to Warf Institute, Inc., laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, for testing. The laboratories reported PBB in the samples. Reports from Michigan State University and Department of Agriculture laboratories failed to find PBB. The results made it impossible for state officials to deny that PBB was in the cows, although they continued to deny that it had killed them, and later that it caused human health issues. The event escalated into a vicious campaign to destroy Doc Clark professionally and revoke his license, which highlighted the political and economic dimensions of PBB contamination. Doc Clark also played a significant role in litigation resulting from the PBB mix-up, being an expert witness in multiple court cases. Because of his work on PBB, Doc Clarke is internationally known. Doc Clark died on May 18, 2022. A copy of his obituary is found at the end of Box 29.
Marlene Clark: Marlene Evelyn Peterson Clark (1933-2004), grew up around Hersey, Michigan. She attended Anderson Church of God College in Anderson, Indiana. While attending a Church of God church in Lansing. she met her future husband, Doc Clark. They were married in 1956. Together they had three children: Alpha III, David, and Linda, who is also a veterinarian who works with her father. Marlene was her husband’s confidante, did most of the clerical work, and managed the accounts for his practice. In addition, she ran the household, raised their three children, and accompanied Doc on long drives out of state to cattle auctions and farms, so he could study various breeds of cows. Doc credits Marlene for his persistence and perseverance throughout the PBB episode. She encouraged him when the odds seemed (and were) stacked against them, reminding him of what was at stake. Marlene also forged important bonds with farm families, litigators, and researchers, participating in community meetings, designing posters for protests, and traveling with Doc across the state and internationally to help raise awareness about PBB contamination.
(Information about the Clarks is from the collection, Dr. Fremion, and “Faces in the crowd: Alpha “Doc” Clark, Marion Press, October 4, 2018, http://www.marion-press.com/2018/10/faces-in-the-crowd-alpha-doc-clark/, accessed October 2019.)
Norm Keon: A biography of Norm Keon is included here due to his pivotal role supporting Dr. Clark’s papers coming to the Clarke Historical Library.
Norman Keon was born in 1946 and grew up in St. Louis, Michigan. His family lived within three blocks of the Michigan Chemical plant, and Norm remembers playing on the chemical plant’s grounds as a child. Norm graduate from Alma College in 1968, and Kirksville College of Osteopathy in 1969. In 1975, Norm and his then wife, Jane Keon, bought a house along the Pine River in St. Louis. From 1971 until his retirement in 2001, Norm worked for the State of Michigan Health Department in the Tuberculosis Control Program and in the accreditation unit for communicable diseases. For part of his career, Norm also worked for a remote clinic with Big Rapids, Michigan, farmers. After retiring from working for the state, he began working as an epidemiologist with the Central Michigan District and Mid-Michigan District health departments. In 2019, Norm works for three health department districts in Michigan: Mid-Michigan, Central and District 10. He has worked in public health for the last 48 years. Norm remains an active member of the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force, an EPA sanctioned community action group responsible for overseeing the cleanup of the Pine River Watershed.
(This information is from a conversation with Marian Matyn in July 2017, EPI Insight from the Michigan Department of Community Health Bureau of Epidemiology Summer 2001 newsletter, and from Keon’s curriculum vitae.)
The PBB event in Michigan: The PBB event in Michigan beginning in 1973. Perhaps as many as tens of thousands of people in Michigan, Chicago, and throughout the Midwest and U.S. eventually unknowingly consumed PBB in contaminated milk, meat, and eggs before the extent of the poisoning and the impact of PBB in food was understood. Farmers on PBB contaminated farms were the first to suffer ill health, but as was later proven, anyone who ingested it permanently retains it in their body and passes it onto to their descendants. Many people still do not know they ingested PBB and the impact it has had on their long-term health and families. State and other officials, notably the FBu Services, Michigan Department of Agriculture, MSU laboratory, and Governor William Milliken blamed farmers, misunderstood or concealed facts, and actively prevented non-Michigan experts from assisting with the poisoning crisis until it was too late. Dr. Fries did not discover that the contamination was from PBB until he accidentally left his machinery on overnight, long enough for the heavy chemicals to register. The next morning the test results showed it was PBB. Dr. Clark’s phone message about this discovery was pivotal in identifying the source of the poisoning and after effects. This very important piece of evidence is in Box 15 Folder 3. Afflicted farmers and their families suffered loss of their herds, occupations, physical and mental health, reputations, and undeserved abuse. Medical testing of mainly farm families affected by PBB ended after twenty years and records were “lost.” Designated locations for contaminated animal burial sites were very controversial, protested unsuccessfully by locals, and nearby water later became contaminated. For a good overview on the PBB poisoning up to 1980, read the Poisoning of Michigan by Joyce Egginton, 1980, revised 2009. For a history of Michigan Chemical and Velsicol, as well as the St. Louis, Michigan, community’s response to pollution in the Pine River watershed, see Edward Lorenz’s Civic Empowerment in an Age of Corporate Greed, 2012. In 2019 attempts are finally being made to seriously clean up contaminated soil in St. Louis, Michigan, to document oral histories and physical manuscript collections from the farm families, veterinarians, doctors, researchers, and politicians affected or involved with the PBB poisoning, and to restart health histories in a PBB registration as well as educate the Michigan public and politicians about the PBB poisoning and ongoing consequences.
- Acquisition Information:
Arrangement is by original order.
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Using These Materials
Dr. Alpha "Doc" Clark PBB Collection is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Some of the published materials, and the videotapes are copyrighted.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
Dr. Alpha "Doc" Clark PBB Collection, Folder # , Box #, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University