Opelika Remembers Life of Community Leader, Educator

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William Parker Sr., a longtime Opelika community leader and educator, passed away on June 22.

By Ann Cipperly
For The Observer

OPELIKA —

Opelika lost one of its most beloved educators and community leaders with the passing of William Parker Sr. on June 22. Parker dedicated his life to educating children in the Opelika City Schools and served the community in numerous organizations, receiving many honors and awards. The educator and his wife Patsy inspired dreams in thousands of students over the years.

Parker was raised in Dothan where he was active in sports, playing basketball and football in high school. He attended Alabama State University until he was drafted into the Army. He served two years, spending 16 months in Korea.

Following his discharge, Parker returned to Alabama State University where he played basketball. Around this time he met Patsy, which he said was one of the best things that ever happened to him. They were married in 1957 when he graduated while she was a junior.

After graduating, he went back for a master’s degree and also earned a specialist degree in administration from the University of Alabama.

Since he loved sports, Parker had a desire to become a coach. His first coaching job was in Barbour County where he taught physical education and organized a successful basketball program.

Since Patsy had a job in Opelika teaching at Jeter Street Elementary School, Parker accepted a position as physical education director for the Black elementary schools in Opelika. He later became assistant principal at Darden High School.

During integration, the Parkers felt they were fortunate to have had support from the community as they worked with parents, students and school administrators in assisting in a smooth transition.

“Working with the community and the parents in making a smooth transition during the period of integration was the most rewarding experience I have had,” Parker said. “The transition was smooth because we had strong leadership in our city fathers, our parents, our school administrators and, most of all, the students.”

After the schools were integrated, Parker became the first Black principal at Opelika Junior High School. He worked with Judge Lane as a volunteer advisor to the Lee County Juvenile Court System and served on the State Central Board of Control for the Alabama High School Athletic Association, which sets standards for behavior.

The Parkers were both active in PTA, serving as presidents. When the Boys and Girls Club was organized, the Parkers were on the first board and the Youth Development Board, among many other boards.

“My biggest experiences came within the school system, and as a result of that everything else fell in to place, including all of the organizations in which I was involved,” said Parker. “I worked extremely hard wherever I was because I wanted to be the best I could be.”

When Parker retired in 1991, he became director of the Child Advocacy Center for about ten years. He was instrumental in getting land and a new building to help children in need.

He was appointed by the mayor to represent Opelika on the Indian Pines Golf Authority. He was proud of this public golf course in the community.

“One of the greatest accomplishments and pride in my life is my family,” Parker would say. “Settling in Opelika and raising my family here was the most rewarding accomplishment in my life. Having worked in the school system as a teacher and principal gave me the opportunity to help our children and work with some of the finest parents anywhere.”

Parker not only encouraged and gave hope to children and youth over the years, he and Patsy set examples of working hard to achieve goals and dreams. In this effort, they established an annual scholarship for any Opelika High School student to attend Alabama State University.

The Parkers’ children, Billy and Nancy, were active in many activities in school. Billy was the first black Key Club president, while Nancy was the first black Miss OHS.

The Parkers feel their greatest accomplishments, pride and love in their lives has been their family with six grandchildren. Billy works as a Partner with a commercial real estate development firm, and Nancy became an Emmy winning anchor at Fox8 News in New Orleans.

Parker and Patsy experienced heartbreak at the devastating loss of their daughter Nancy in a plane crash while she was working on a story. With Nancy’s outreach and dedication to helping others, her loss broke the hearts of people around the world. Her passion for telling people’s stories inspired others to make a difference.

After Nancy’s death, the Parkers established a community scholarship in her honor to an Opelika High School senior. This is the second scholarship the Parkers have established.

When William passed away, Nancy’s husband Glenn Boyd commented, “When Nancy and I were courting, I remember one evening she explained to me what type of man she hoped to marry. ‘I want to marry someone just like my Dad,’ she said.

“Of course I’d met her father a number of times. He was a school principal, a leader in the Opelika community, sat on boards and commissions and was president of the golf club.

“Above all that, William Parker was a man of character and integrity, a family man, in love with his wife Patsy of more than 60 years and his two children Billy and Nancy. I’ve never met a man so dedicated to his family. He pampered Nancy and his wife; hunted, fished and golfed with Billy all of his 88 years. His grandkids were the apple of his eyes. Our kids affectionately called him, ‘Poppi.’

“I remember telling Nancy in that conversation, I could never be like her father. I could try and work to be a lot like him.”

“She loved her father, and he loved her more than life itself. On Wednesday afternoon, Nancy and her hero embraced again, in eternity.

“I can truly say, I’m a better man, because of Mr. Parker. I never heard him raise his voice, I never heard him swear, we never had a cross word.

“I could never be just like Mr. Parker, but I’m still trying and I’m better for it. Thank you for my greatest gift.

“You truly were one of a kind.”

The service to remember and honor William Parker Sr. will be held on July 2, at 11 a.m. on the Southern Union State Junior College campus.

WILLIAM “BILL” PARKER SR.’S HONORS AND AWARDS

• B.S. degree in social studies and physical education from Alabama State University

• Master of Science Degree from Alabama State University

• Specialist degree in administration from the University of Alabama

• Co-recipient of the Alabama State University President’s Club Award

• Alabama State’s Alumni on the Move Award

• Alabama Athletic Association Distinguished Service Award

• East Alabama Mental Health and Retardation Center Award for 17 Years of Service on the Board of Directors

• Vice president and treasurer of the board of directors at the East Alabama Mental Health Association

• Co-recipient of the Boy Scouts of America’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year

• Co-recipient of the 2012 Dream Achiever Award

• Lee County Juvenile Court Award for Outstanding Distinguished Voluntary Leader in the establishment of the East Alabama Child Advocacy Center

• Certificate of Appreciation from United Way

• Member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.

• Member of Alabama State Alumni Association

• Member of the Indian Pines Golf Authority Board

• Member of the Alabama Education Association

•Member of the National Education Association

• Member of the Lee County Retired Teachers Association.

In Lou of flowers or green plants please consider a donation to the:

William A. Parker, Sr.
Gap Scholarship

SUSCC Foundation

PO Box 1000

Wadley, AL 36276

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