The familiar face flashes past in a First American Bank TV commercial: genial, smiling . . . statesmanlike.

Why, that looks like Clark Clifford.

And a few seconds later, here is the jack-o'-lantern grin of Willard Scott, and then you know.

It was Clark Clifford.

"I thoroughly enjoyed it," said the 79-year-old sage, former secretary of defense and counselor to presidents ever since he advised Harry Truman to give 'em hell in 1948, who also happens to be chairman of the board of the holding company that owns the Maryland, Virginia and D.C. First American Banks and banks in New York and Tennessee and on the Eastern Shore.

"I was expecting to have a terrible time getting him for a cameo," said Rick Barrow, president of Words & Co., the Washington ad agency that produced the spot. "But I saw him at the board meeting and he said, 'Of course!' He was charming. Most gracious. The crew loved him."

The spot, which appears in 60-second, 30-second and 10-second versions and will run for several months, features "winning moments," reported Barrow, who wrote it. There are glimpses of the Washington Marathon finish, the Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase, a sailboat race on the Chesapeake. And to cap the moments, he wanted "the smile of a winner."

"It had to be people known in the area," he said. "Respected Washington figures. Willard Scott the weatherman came to mind right away. We had a list of 10 possibilities, and then I noticed that one of them was Mr. Clifford. I thought: It's perfect. He's well known, he's got the face of a statesman, and after all he is the board chairman of the bank."

Corporate spokesmen are highly valued for TV commercials, but the problem is finding one who is widely recognized, like, say, Lee Iacocca or Frank Borman.

Clifford, reached at his law offices, said he "probably will do another one sometime."

He told how in the late '70s he represented as counsel a group of investors who wanted to take over what was then called Financial General Bankshares Inc. "After a bitter fight we got the other side to settle, and we bought 100 percent of the stock and changed the name to First American Bankshares."

When he reported the victory to the investors, "they said they'd like me to run it. Well, after 58 years as a corporation lawyer, I already had a sort of subconscious desire to run a company: I'd seen some well run and some poorly run, so there came this opportunity."

It was only natural that he help promote the cause in a commercial, even though he was paid just the required union scale of about $500. Scott's pay, which was negotiated with his agent, ran to "more than several thousands," Barrow said. "He really went all out for us, scheduled himself around his vacation and everything."

The final word was Clifford's: "I'm told I'm on the air for 1 1/2 seconds," he said. "It's my shortest TV appearance to date."