David W. Clingan, the son of the late Lee Clingan and Thelma Tucker Tyhurst Clingan, is establishing the fund in loving memory of his parents.
While Lee and Thelma Clingan were not natives to Covington, they considered Covington their hometown. Lee was born and raised near Kingman and Thelma was born in Kentland and raised across the border in Georgetown, Illinois.
Like most people of the “Greatest Generation”, World War 2 took them from their hometowns to locations throughout the USA and Europe, but they were drawn back home to the Wabash Valley. Lee and Thelma were married in Covington in February of 1958 and purchased a home on Elm Drive in the brand new “Beck Addition”. They ran their insurance, auctioneering and real estate business, as well as political campaigns, out of the office in the basement for 30 years, raised three children, and entertained dozens of Elm Drive kids in the large backyard, woods and sledding hill over the years.
Lee was born near Kingman in 1921, graduated from Kingman High School in 1939, and enlisted in the Army in April 1941. Lee quickly rose to the rank of First Lieutenant and led an infantry platoon through two major battles in Holland, earning the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Combat Infantryman Badge. Lee was a German prisoner of war at Oflag 64 in Poland and towards the end of the war, from January to April 1945, the camp of more than 1,000 prisoners was forced to march over 300 miles back to Germany on the infamous Poland death march. Lee escaped briefly during General George Patton’s Hammelburg Raid of Oflag XIII-B to rescue his son-in-law.
After the war, Lee graduated from Reppert’s School of Auctioneering and attended life insurance and marketing classes at Purdue University. Lee often referred to himself as a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, and some of his other jobs included suit salesman, apple picker, bail bondsman, livestock buyer, gentleman farmer, laundromat owner, and truck driver. Since 1953, Lee had the pleasure of entertaining thousands of people at his mini farm, cattle, antique and land auctions. Lee’s deep voice, cadenced auctioneering chant and colorful stories never failed to entertain the buyers.
Lee entered the Indiana State Senate in 1960 and served for eight years until his seat was reapportioned in 1968. In 1972, he ran for the House of Representatives and won, serving for 16 years. Every year of the 24 years that Lee served in the General Assembly he was a member of the Agriculture and Insurance Committees of the chamber in which he served, and he was at one time the chairman of the Insurance Committee of each chamber. During Lee’s 24 years in the legislature, he represented districts that included all or parts of Fountain, Vermillion, Warren, Vigo, Benton, and Parke counties.
Lee was a past president of the Kingman High School Alumni Association; a member of the Indiana Auctioneers Association; a past commander of the Kingman American Legion Post; a past commander of firing squads and colors for many military funerals; a member of the V.F.W; the Kingman Masonic Lodge # 314, the Scottish Rite, the Zorah Temple, and the Elks Lodge; and a member of the Fountain County draft board for 25 years. Lee was also instrumental in moving the Ernie Pyle home to Dana, Indiana., in the mid-1970s to establish the Ernie Pyle State Historic Site.
In 1985, Lee’s 99 colleagues in the Indiana House of Representatives rated him as “Best Liked” in Indianapolis Monthly magazine. In 1989, Governor Evan Bayh awarded Lee the prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash award, bestowing upon him the state’s highest award for a citizen and honoring him for his many years of service to the State of Indiana. In 1988, Lee was honored by House Concurrent Resolution No. 97, praising his 24 years of service to the Indiana General Assembly.
The lovely and lively Thelma was literally and figuratively the wind beneath Lee’s wings as well as her children and grandchildren. She served as his wife, chief advisor, and supporter for 30 years until her death in 1987 of ovarian cancer. Emulating President Harry S. Truman, Lee lovingly referred to Thelma T. as “The Boss”. In addition to raising three children (Lynne Suzanne Tyhurst, Greg, and David) Thelma was a homemaker, room mother, office manager, accountant, political advisor and campaigner, and auction cashier. She was a 1942 graduate of Georgetown High School and was a member of Gamma Epsilon Chapter of Psi Iota Xi, the Coffeenians, Fountain County Democratic Women’s Club, State Assembly Women’s Club, Sky Valley Ladies Golf League, and she attended Covington United Methodist Church.
Generous of heart and spirit, both Lee and Thelma T. were committed to service to their community and their country. Their shared experience of growing up during the great depression and World War 2 provided them both with extraordinary measures of resourcefulness, frugality, and practicality, as well as a deep respect for hard work and loyalty to family, friends, and neighbors. Therefore, David felt it important and appropriate to remember and honor Lee and Thelma’s beloved “hometown” with this fund to benefit the Covington community. Projects supported by the Lee & Thelma Clingan Fund may be in a wide variety of areas, including, but not limited to, beautification, animal welfare, libraries, patriotism, arts, culture, historic preservation, and others.
Donations to the Lee & Thelma Clingan Fund may be made online at www.wicf-inc.org or mailed to: Covington Community Foundation, Attn: Lee & Thelma Clingan Fund, P.O. Box 175, Covington, IN 47932