In memory of our friend,
Clarence Eldon Sharp – K5DX
May 30, 1921 – September 3, 2001
Internationally respected DX-er and contester, Clarence E. Sharp, K5DX passed away September 3, 2001 at the age of 80 after a long illness. A native of Burkburnett, Texas, Sharp spent his early years working in Missouri and Kansas as a machinist. During WWII he was employed as a welder in the Galveston, Texas shipyards before being inducted into the U.S. Army Air Force in 1944 were he trained as a pilot on a B-25 Mitchell twin-engine medium range bomber. After the war he studied mechanical engineering at the University of Houston.
His interest in radio began as a teenager when he built his first crystal radio for a school project and developed a love for home brewing antennas. He was first licensed in 1946 as W5NMA. With an abundance of military surplus parts and receivers, Sharp was soon chasing DX with home brew transmitters and antennas and a military surplus receiver. His welding skills came in handy when he built his own home brew 80-foot freestanding tower from scrap steel pipe. Later antenna designs involved multi-element multi-band cubical quads and towers up to 140 feet. One early antenna he designed required a prop-pitch motor to turn the 40-foot boom. His antenna farms of the 1950’s and 1960’s are still talked about in competitive DX and contesting circles. With a modest station and home brewed antennas, Sharp was one of the earliest hams to achieve DXCC and WAZ in the early 1950’s. His DXCC credits at time of death were 379 Mixed, and 374 Phone. Although he achieved #1 DXCC many years ago, only P5 eluded him from the current country list.
He was an accomplished contester as an individual operator and club team member on SSB and CW. Among his many accomplishments are: Gavel Winner for the Medium Club Category – ARRL Sweepstakes 1980 and 1982, XE2FU 1984 ARRL DX CW & Phone Multi-Multi Winner with new world records for each, Armadillo Runs of 1983-1985 in which every county in the 5th call district were activated, Texas Armadillo Run of 1986 in which the Texas DX Society (TDXS) arranged to have all counties in the 50 states on the air over two weekends, annual participant in the Texas QSO Party, Sprint contest, active participant for 30 years in the annual Field Day activities in which TDXS held 5 Field Day records and won in several more. Sharp was quick to embrace new modes of operation and new technologies. He was a frequent operator of the Oscar satellite station during FD activities. Before the advent of DX newsletters and Internet spots, Sharp was one of the most prolific DX spotters on two meters in the South Texas region. His callsign became the flagship call of the Texas DX Society where he served as its president in 1979.
Sharp exemplified and embodied the very meaning of everything it is to be a ham radio operator and DX-er. He always strived to put God and family before his beloved hobby and in so doing became one of its most effective and respected ambassadors worldwide. As one of TDXS’ elder statesmen, he became the TDXS equivalent of the ARRL’s Hiram Percy Maxim. He was an "Elmer" to all who needed one, and his quiet strength, leadership, and experience will be missed by all who knew him. He worked for the Ethyl Corporation of Pasadena, Texas for 36 years until he retired in 1985. He was a Life Member of the ARRL, Texas DX Society, and the Texas VHF-FM Society. He is survived by Erma Sharp, his wife of 60 years, two sons, one daughter, five grandsons, and one great grandson.
In his own words - Sharp's autobiography from the September 1984 TDXS Bullsheet:
I was born May 30, 1921 at Burkburnett, Texas, a town which was later immortalized in about 1940 by the movie "Boomtown" with Clark Gable. My parents tell me that Burkburnett (just north of Wichita Falls) was really the oil boomtown of that era complete with mudboats for crossing the street and all the other amenities of that period.
As a youngster, I lived in Arkansas and later went to school in southwest Missouri where I got my first introduction to amateur radio about 1935. One night I kept hearing a strange conversation on my homemade radio. I finally located the fellow who turned out to be a ham about two years older than myself and with the call W9RSO (Missouri was in the ninth call district then). Oscar, W9RSO, work 160 meters and 10 meters AM phone - the only other phone bands for HF were 20 meters and 75 meters and were the exclusive property of the Class A boys (the kings of the hill). W9RSO has since that time been W3JNN, W8AC, and is now W4YJ, a very active DXer.
Erma and I were married in July 1941 and moved to Galveston about the time WW2 got on stream. I joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and was discharged in October 1945. We moved to Houston in 1946.
Amateur Radio was closed down by the military in 1941 and stayed that way until January 1946 at which time the hams got the 10 meter band back. I was issued W5NMA shortly after and had a real ball working 10 meter DX with a homemade 80 foot tower and a double triplex beam. I also had a military surplus transmitter and a BC348 receiver and a crystal controlled converter for 10 meters. The W's would call CQ DX and tune from 28100 to 28500. You worked contests the same way. Talk about your Russian Roulette! The DX phones could be 3 to 4 deep in that 400 KHz with the VE's on top!
Within the next year or so we got all the other bands back except for 160 meters. There was no 15 meter band until years later. I upgraded to Class A about 1949 so as to get the 20 meter band which was 14000 to 14400 with the U.S. phone band from 14200 to 14300. The DX phones operated 14100 to 14200 and 14300 to 14400. We would call CQ DX and listen in both sections! No DX station in his right mind would have dared to get in the American phone band with its wild scream of AM heterodynes.
To give you an idea of that degree of difficulty, I have a 1956 ARRL DX contest phone certificate. I was No. 1 phone in South Texas with only 181 contacts and 110 multipliers. SSB came in to its own about 1960 and completely revolutionized phone contesting. In the 1971 ARRL DX Phone contest, I had 1071 QSO's and a 327 multipliers for 1,049,670 points.
There are people who see sides of me other than amateur radio. In the late 40's and early 50's, I acquired 130 credit hours toward an M.E. degree and then decided I wanted to do something else for a living. For the past 32 years, I have worked for the Ethyl Corporation and have been involved in process instrumentation for the past 23 years. Erma and I had been married 43 years in July and have raised two sons and a daughter (we lost one son), and have five grandsons. Some of you know I have served my church (The Deer Park Church of Christ) for the past 20 years having been an elder for the past 10 years. One of my primary concerns is the high divorce rate among radio amateurs. I really don't know if hams are any more prone to the malady than the general public where one marriage out of two is ending in divorce. We all know that the children of these broken homes are the real victims.
Marriage counselors agree that the first critical period in a marriage is at the six year mark. This was pretty much true in ours. One evening when I was in QSO with a VK, I heard the most dreadful screeching outside imaginable and about that time my radio went dead. It seems that Erma had gotten into the car and started to back out to go to the store with the rope to my beam tied off to the bumper! I finally forgave her and we've made another 37 years together!!
Marriages and most other relationships fail because we are inherently selfish individuals. Marriages succeed because of commitment to each partner's part to love, share and care for each other. Having common interests and backgrounds are a definite asset. Let's strive to keep some balance in our lives. After all, IT'S ONLY A HOBBY! 73, K5DX
From the CQ-Contest news thread for September 4, 2001:
I regret to inform you that we as a contest community have lost another fine amateur. I can only summarize by saying that Sharp was an avid DXer, great contester and supreme team member. Since I have been away from Houston and the Texas DX Society for many years, I cannot fully speak for the present club members. I will say however that Sharp remains as a true example of the camaraderie that held our group together through the years that I was an active member.
Perhaps several of you will recognize K5DX as the Field Day callsign used by the TDXS over the last 20 plus years. With Sharp's leadership, the TDXS racked up many fine FD scores.
73 de KN5H
From the eHam.net Friends Remembered web page (Sept 3, 2001):
I never met Sharp. But I'd worked him in many contests over the years. This past CW Sprint didn't seem right not having him in the log. - RIP OM., Bill Fisher - W4AN
I met Sharp in 1974, and finally got up the gumption to ask him to administer the Novice code test to me in 1978. A ham's ham, if there ever was one. - 73 es CUL - KE0AZ