By Ann Cipperly
Two years ago on Aug. 16, Nancy Parker Boyd was living her life dream as an award winning news anchor for Fox 8 television station in New Orleans for over two decades. On this typical hot afternoon in the city, Nancy was interviewing a well-known acrobatic pilot for an upcoming fundraiser. Shortly after they took off, there was a problem with the plane. The pilot requested to turn around for an emergency landing that never happened, as the plane tragically crashed. The news was devastating for everyone who knew Nancy and her family.
While Nancy received many honors and awards during her career, they have not slowed down since her death, as her influence lives on. Nancy was inducted into two Hall of Fames, had a street named after her in Louisiana along with a park and the Fox 8 studio, among others.
When Nancy was a little girl in Opelika, she believed she could accomplish anything she dreamed. In grammar school, Nancy knew she wanted to be a television news anchor. It was a dream that grew into a passion for telling people’s stories, inspiring others and making a difference.
The dream led to New Orleans where she became a celebrated news anchor, interviewing the President of the United States, meeting the Pope on St. Peter’s Square and receiving numerous Emmys, honors and awards for her documentaries and dedication to excellence.
Nancy’s parents, Patsy and Bill Parker of Opelika, were educators who were committed to community service. They always encouraged Nancy to follow her dreams. Nancy always felt they were great role models, with their motto “Be the best at whatever you do, no matter what that is, always keep your dignity and self-respect and be able to hold your head up no matter where you are.” She later said this was drilled into her and her brother, Billy, every day.
Anyone who knew Nancy was blessed and could feel the glow of her caring and kindness. While interviewed one time, she said, “You always want to be a light and not just a person. You have to do something to help other people and give back.”
While Nancy was unique and gifted, her life was enhanced with what she learned from her parents and other family members growing up in Opelika.
Nancy shared once that when she was growing up, she was not allowed to sit around watching television, instead she was required to read. When she finished reading a Nancy Drew book, her grandmother would take her to Jackie’s Cards and Gifts in downtown Opelika for another one. She had a love for reading and could have read a new book all night.
Nancy was active in organizations at Opelika High School, and she was the first Black Miss OHS. Her mother entered Nancy in a teen magazine modeling contest, and Nancy was one of six national finalists in the magazine’s Miss Teenage America Contest.
When she was a senior in high school, Nancy began the first steps toward her dream by applying for a job in the news department at WJHO Radio Station. She knew she wanted to be a newscaster, and her parents told her to go for it. Nancy was thankful Jack Smollon believed in her.
After high school, she studied journalism at the University of Alabama where she graduated with honors in 1988. While at Alabama, she volunteered at WUAL radio station and wrote articles for The Crimson White newspaper. She also worked one summer as an intern for the Birmingham News.
She received job offers from newspapers, but in her heart she wanted to be a news anchor. Nancy worked as an intern at WTVM in Columbus where she appeared on the air for several stories.
Since there were no openings at the station, Nancy accepted a position working for Congressman Bill Nichols in Washington, D.C., writing press releases and letters. A year later when she received a call from the Columbus station about an opening at the East Alabama Bureau, she returned home.
Nancy began moving up the ladder of success quickly. She accepted a news position at WSFA in Montgomery, reporting the weekend news and then later anchoring the morning news. While working on a story, Nancy met her future husband, Glynn Boyd, who was also a news reporter.
They ended up in Baton Rouge, where Nancy anchored the five o’clock news. A few years later, in 1996, both Nancy and her husband were in New Orleans. A couple of years later, Nancy became the main anchor for the prime-time news on the Fox 8 station.
Over the years, she anchored every prime-time newscast at Fox 8, including the morning edition.
After Katrina, the White House invited five journalists from the Gulf C++oast for one on one interviews with President Bush. Nancy was one of those invited. While Nancy was waiting to interview the President in the Roosevelt room, she called her mother from the china room. “Mom, guess where I am?”
Other notables she covered include Pope John Paul II when the founder of Xavier University in New Orleans was canonized. Nancy had a passion for her work and later said, “Just as the Pope announced her name, a brilliant rainbow appeared over St. Peter’s Square. I never know what I will be covering next. It is always an adventure.”
Nancy was drawn to stories that made a difference. One Emmy nomination was for a story about an honor student who was homeless. Nancy saw a sign that said, “Homeless kids have to go to school too.”
Nancy began wondering if there were homeless kids going to school. She couldn’t sleep thinking about it. One night between newscasts, she found the girl at the Salvation Army shelter with her mom. The girl was at the top of her class and drum major in the school band, but ashamed.
After Nancy presented her story, the girl’s life changed. Her family received an apartment and donations. The girl now wants to mentor other children left behind at the shelter.
“I am always looking to make a difference,” Nancy often said. “If I can see a change in something, it keeps me motivated.”
When her children, Parker and twins Piper and Pierce, were small, she would tell them stories. She completed another dream when she wrote a children’s book, “The Adventures of Yat and Dat: What’s Cookin’?” Not long afterwards, she released a second children’s book, “The Adventures of Yat and Dat: SUPERDOME!” She also authored two other books, “Yat and Dat Present Dinner at Eight the TALKING PLATE” and “The Adventures of Yat and Dat Present STUCK.”
During her career, Nancy received many honors, including five Emmy Awards, five Edward R. Murrow awards and several Associated Press and press club awards. In 2015, she was presented the college-wide Bert Bank Distinguished Service Award at the University of Alabama. She was named to the Board of Visitors for the School of Communications and Information Sciences.
After her death, she was inducted into the University of Alabama Hall of Fame and the Louisiana State University Hall of Fame. Fox 8 News named the studio after Nancy, the city of Gretna in Louisiana changed the name of a street in her memory by naming it Nancy Parker Boyd Memorial Way. At Mardi Gras, a float was named after Nancy.
Other honors include receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Orleans Press Club. A scholarship was established in her name at Opelika High School and in New Orleans a NAACP scholarship in perpetuity to outstanding young people in Nancy’s name.
“My parents are part of what keeps me going,” Nancy would always say. “They are retired, and they never stop. They have always tried to make a difference in somebody’s life. You have to do something to help other people and give back.”
“We have been so blessed to have had Nancy touch our lives,” said Patsy and Bill Parker. “She has always been a champion of the underdog and the lover of all people. Nancy’s love for mankind was unique. She had such a winning personality. A part of Nancy is in everything we touch or see.
“Her family honors her existence each day of their lives. We thank God Nancy grew up in a city that returned her love. We know how much she loved us as her parents. Her children often remind us that a part of her is in each of them. They feel they must continue to be the best and live the lives their parents wanted them to live. We thank each of you for bringing joy to our angel and for keeping her alive in your hearts. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.”
Nancy Parker gave back to countless people and touched hearts with her light. People who knew her felt she was family. She was the kind of person who had an impact on everyone she met. Nancy was an amazing person who was dedicated to making a difference, and she achieved that goal every day of her life.