Claude Ignatius Bakewell, Jr.

Claude Ignatius Bakewell, Jr.

Died March 30, 1962

Claude Bakewell, who was born on the 4th of July, 1943, did not live long enough to complete his freshman year at Yale. He was killed on March 30, 1962 while at home in St. Louis for Spring Break when the car he was driving hit a tree.

William Oakey remembers: Claude was beautiful and handsome, warm and charming, always fun to be with. He was born into a well-known Saint Louis family, big in finance, real estate and politics. Yale was a perfect part of the story becoming his life. He was generous and good and loyal, clearly destined to be a great and successful and honored person in the big world out there. Though we went to different high schools our circles overlapped, so I knew him from parties and other social occasions before we went, with about a dozen other young men from Saint Louis, to be part of the Yale Class of 1965. Then he was killed in a stupid one car crash when we were all home for spring break in our freshman year. He was such a star. How could he be snatched away like that? It was very real, one of the powerful early visits from Death.

Calvin Gatch remembers: I was fortunate to have been Claude’s friend from childhood. Our houses were several blocks apart; our families were friends; we both went to Barat Hall grade school; we graduated from St. Louis Priory School, and we were freshman roommates at Yale with Jim DeAngelis and Brian Schick. Claude was warm, charismatic and athletic. His house on Westminster Place was a magnet for friends who played basketball endlessly at a backyard hoop. When we were in high school, his parents put a ping-pong table in one third floor room and a wrestling mat in another one. Tag team wrestling matches, three round boxing matches, and ping pong tournaments filled the time between basketball on Saturday afternoons. Claude was unbeatable at ping pong; I never came close to winning a game. Despite his competitiveness Claude had an innate kindness that endeared him to those less fortunate and gifted. I and others were grateful for that sensitivity. When he started playing tennis, Claude quickly joined the competitive St. Louis group that made its mark on the national tennis scene. Claude made the rounds of tennis tournaments and was ranked nationally in the under 16-yearolds. He was the top tennis player at St. Louis Priory School during his junior and senior years. At Yale Claude won the freshman tennis tournament in the fall of 1961, beating Bryce Appleton in the final match. He was the quarterback on Priory’s football team and one of the leading scorers on its basketball team in his senior year. Claude’s uncle Paul Bakewell III was a generous mentor and benefactor of Claude’s. A successful financier and avid duck hunter who trained Labrador retrievers for hunting and field trials, he owned a duck hunting farm across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in Illinois. Claude and his friends learned to work with retrievers while duck-hunting in the river’s backwaters. Claude’s had a patrician heritage. He was a descendant of Alexander McNair, Missouri’s first governor. His great-grandfather, Paul Bakewell, was a prominent St. Louis patent attorney; his grandmother, Mary Morgan Fullerton Bakewell, was a grand-niece of J.P. Morgan, and his father, Claude, Sr., was an attorney, a Naval officer during World War II, was twice elected to the U.S. Congress, and later became Postmaster of St. Louis. Claude was very close to his distinguished and athletic father, who nurtured and encouraged Claude’s athletic and intellectual pursuits. The two shared adventuresome spirits. While in England, his father’s connections opened the door to Wimbledon’s center court where the two Claudes played tennis against each other. Claude’s pedigree did not dampen his free spirit. His presence was energizing; his friends represented a diverse range of backgrounds and interests; his girlfriends were good looking and classy. I think of Claude every July Fourth, when fireworks illuminate the night skies and fireflies cast a soft glow on the farm fields around our house. It’s seems appropriate that Claude came into this world on the most celebratory of our nation’s holidays. Claude appeared destined to continue his family’s tradition of service. Although his life was cut short, his legacy lives on in the memories of his friends and at St. Louis Priory School, where each year a graduating senior is awarded the Claude Bakewell Memorial prize recognizing contributions made to the school through ability, character, leadership and service. It’s consoling that more than 50 years after Claude’s death, his generosity of spirit continues to be celebrated.

Robert Leich remembers: Claude and I met on the first day in the first class that either one of us took at Yale, one September Monday at an 8:00 AM Spanish class which met five mornings a week. We were seated next to one another that day, and I learned that he was from St. Louis, while I hailed from Evansville, IN, which was only a short distance away. At some point with winter approaching I mentioned that I’d like to again take up tennis, a sport which I had dropped a few years prior, and I recall that we made plans to play outdoors in the Spring. Claude was killed in a car accident while home on Christmas vacation that freshman year. He was the first classmate and friend that I lost. I have thought of him many times over the years, and will always remember his handsome face and quiet elegance. I am sorry that he was not able to share the Yale experience with us.