Alexandria Police Foundation

Profiles of Courage

Corporal Clarence J. McClary, 1935

Corporal Clarence J. McClary

Clarence J. McClary was born June 21, 1906 and grew up in Orange County. In 1916, the large McClary family moved to Alexandria. Clarence married Lillie Rutherford and worked as a steam derrick operator. On October 1, 1927, he became an Alexandria police officer.

His older brother, Charlie, also an Alexandria officer, was killed in the line of duty less than two years after Clarence joined the department. But the junior McClary continued to serve and was promoted to corporal on January 1, 1932.

On March 17, 1935, Corporal McClary and eight other Alexandria officers joined a posse in Loudoun County. A moonshiner was wanted for shooting a federal agent. Dozens of police officers from around the region searched the hills south of Leesburg for Thomas “Devil Tom” Quisenberry, 56, and his stills. At daybreak, the posse split up and Corporal McClary’s group went to search near a still that had been found the day before.

In the hills along a farm south of Goose Creek, not far from the quarry, they saw the wanted man in the distance, with a rifle across his knees. The posse’s firepower was limited but Corporal McClary, a sharpshooter, was armed with a high-powered rifle. He and the fugitive exchanged shots as Corporal McClary ran into the open before reaching a barn. Steadying his rifle along a wire fence, Corporal McClary opened fire but missed his target. When Quisenberry drew his rifle and fired, the shot struck the officer in the stomach. Fatally wounded, Corporal McClary said, “He got me, now you get him.” He died minutes later at 6:45 a.m.

That afternoon, with more than 150 officers on his trail, Quisenberry, a convicted murderer and prison escapee, was captured. On July 1, 1935, he pleaded guilty to Corporal McClary’s murder and was sentenced to 20 years.

Corporal McClary, age 28, was survived by his wife Lillie, and their four children. He is buried at Bethel Cemetery in Alexandria.

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