Parker: Distinguished historian, unselfish servant

Published 4:39 pm Thursday, December 28, 2023

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of seven articles, each highlighting one of the 2023 inductees to the Franklin Community Wall of Excellence.

The Franklin Community Wall of Excellence gained eight new names via its 2023 class.

Those names included Clyde Elwood Parker, David T. Lease, Carolyn and Waverly Lawrence, Travis W. Felts, Frank M. Rabil, Jennifer Sing and Mona M. Sumblin.

The seventh annual Franklin Community Wall of Excellence Induction Dinner and Ceremony took place Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Cypress Cove Country Club.

As noted in the event’s program, through the vision of some local Franklin City Public Schools alumni and school personnel, the Franklin Community Wall of Excellence Inc. was established in 2016 as a program to honor former Franklin and Hayden high school students, administrators, teachers and staff who have excelled or distinguished themselves through personal and/or professional success, as well as to recognize those community members who have made significant contributions to the public schools in Franklin.

“The Wall” is located at Franklin High School, adjacent to the gymnasium, a Wall of Excellence news release stated. Names and photos of each inductee are displayed for generations of Franklin High School students and community members to see as they walk by on their way to class or an event at FHS.

CLYDE ELWOOD PARKER

Parker was inducted onto the Wall of Excellence under the category of Outstanding Career.

The printed program for the induction dinner and ceremony noted that he has lived in the area for almost his entire life. He was born in Capron in 1938, living there until his family moved to Franklin four years later. He graduated from Franklin High School in 1956.

It was after graduation that he left the area briefly, serving for two years in the U.S. Army.

But then he returned to Franklin and became employed in the Mill Planning Department of Union Camp Corporation, working there from 1958-69.

At the end of that time period, he took a job as personnel manager/human resources manager with Franklin Equipment Company. He worked there for 40 years before retiring in 2009.

“During the time that Parker worked, he faithfully served his local community, something that he still does to this very day!” Wall of Excellence officials stated in the program. “His passion and support have faithfully promoted many of our community assets over the years, where he was not only a member but also held various offices on various boards…”

The printed program then listed some of the organizations with boards on which he has served: Southampton Memorial Hospital, James L. Camp Jr. Family YMCA, the Jaycees, the Lions Club, Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, Vicare, Franklin-Southampton Area United Way and Southampton County Historical Society.

With the state-renowned Franklin chapter of the Jaycees, Parker served as president from 1969-70, as state vice president in 1970 and as state chair of records and recognition from 1970-71.

Wall of Excellence officials then noted in the program that Parker was named a life member of the Jaycees as well as a Jaycees International Senator, a position that he continues to hold.

He has also had significant standing with the American Red Cross. He was a member of the American Red Cross Association Board from 1973-2022, during which time he served as chair of the local chapter and on the board of directors for several other chapters in the greater Hampton Roads area.

For Parker’s years of faithful service, the American Red Cross presented him with the Justine Lowenberg Nusbaum Award.

Among the other honors Parker has received, Franklin Masonic Lodge No. 151 presented him with the Community Builders Award.

Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Teresa B. Beale introduced Parker during the Wall of Excellence induction ceremony, and to some of the details above, she added that he served on the Paul D. Camp Community Industrial Technology Committee, he serves on local scholarship committees, and he has served the city of Franklin in several different capacities, including as chairman of the Industrial Development Authority.

“Just imagine all those committees and boards he’s been on, how many meetings Clyde Parker has attended, I mean can you imagine that? Not just locally but throughout the state,” Beale said. “He truly cares about each organization that he’s involved in, and as you can see, he has touched all aspects of our community — health care, recreation, education, economic and community development,” she said.

The induction dinner and ceremony program noted that Parker regularly produces a column for The Tidewater News called “Looking Back,” highlighting area history of which he has remarkable knowledge and ability to research.

“His recall of people, places, dates and events is just a true talent,” Beale said.
Parker also contributes to magazines as a writer, including Western Tidewater Living and Hague Quarterly out of Norfolk.

Before calling up Beale to introduce Parker, Wall of Excellence Vice President Brian Hedgepeth gave a brief tribute to him, saying, “I’ve always been amazed at how quietly this distinguished gentleman has been a voice of reason, the city’s historian and an unselfish servant to the community.”

Beale said Parker’s efforts “have indeed improved our quality of life. He’s well-respected, thoughtful, humble, engaged and always has the best interests of the community in his heart.”

She noted that for anything Parker does, he goes at it 110%.

“He’s passionate about his hometown, and we are fortunate that his dedication to others continues to enhance our community,” she said. “If you don’t know Clyde, make it a point to have a conversation with him. You’re certainly going to learn something new.”

To open his speech, Parker said, “I’m honored to be inducted into the Franklin Community Wall of Excellence. To be included along with so many other people with great accomplishments is beyond anything I’ve ever expected or thought possible.”

He noted that he is proud to have graduated from Franklin High School in 1956, though he admitted he was not a good student.

He mentioned having played football, along with his brothers Bobby and Frankie, for coaches Charlie Saunders and John Pond.

Clyde played right tackle, Bobby played center and Frankie played halfback.

“They were both better players than I was,” Clyde said.

He said he well-remembered his years at FHS, which were shaped in part by Principal F.H. Christopher.

“When you were in his school, you behaved yourself,” Clyde said.

He added that he especially remembered teachers like Elizabeth Evans, who taught English; Winnie Frances Eubank, who taught history and civics; Bessie Dillon, who taught math; Prudence Thorpe, who taught English, literature and Shakespeare; John Pond, who taught science; Louise Magette, who taught geometry; and Romine Hundley, who taught typing.

“Yes, typing,” Parker said, prompting chuckles. “Our last year, Cecil Lowe, Robert Stephens and myself took typing as a fill-in subject. We were not too serious about it, but we learned how to type.”

After graduation, the trio, plus Curtis Rook, enlisted in the U.S. Army together.

After basic training, Lowe was assigned to U.S. Army Cryptography School and went to Turkey, Stephens was assigned to U.S. Army Cryptography School and went to the Pentagon, and Parker was assigned to the U.S. Army Administration School and went to Germany to serve in the headquarters of the 7th Engineer Brigade in its personnel division at Rhein-Main Air Base.

“Our typing in high school determined our military career,” Parker said.

After returning to Franklin, he applied at Union Camp Corporation, which he noted was then known as Union Bag-Camp Paper Corporation. They needed someone to schedule paper mill runs.

“Allen Jones told me he had several applicants for the job, (so) I pretty well gave up on that,” Parker said. “But then he asked me a good question. He said, ‘Can you type?’”

This drew significant laughter from the crowd at the induction ceremony, and Parker noted that his typing skills again played a key role in his life, leading to him working for Union Camp.

Those skills also came into use during his two years with the National Guard, where he worked with Capt. Hudson Lankford and Sgt. Floyd Wellons.

“I was hired at Franklin Equipment Company in 1969 as personnel manager to replace Rice Day, who had left to go to work for New York Life Insurance Company. At Franklin Equipment Company, I handled many tasks other than personnel work — safety, security, health insurance and other benefits — and of course, hiring, and of course, I got involved with firing.” 

And his duties involved a good bit of typing.

One of his first jobs there was to type up a complete, comprehensive company policy book.

“Over the years since my starting at Union Camp, I did get involved with many community organizations and activities, as noted by Teresa Beale’s introduction,” he said. “I give much credit to Franklin Equipment Company and the Jaycee organization for a major part of my introduction to community involvement…”

He noted that this involvement has included the Chamber of Commerce under Donna McCullough and later with Beale and Melissa Rose.

“With the Southampton County Historical Society, I owe a lot of credit to Lynda Updike for asking me to come on board with them, and later we got involved in a lot of different projects involved with that,” he said.

He expressed gratitude to former The Tidewater News Publisher Steve Stewart for getting him started with the “Looking Back” column.

Parker also shared details on his time and roles with the American Red Cross, and he made a point to recognize officers with the organization’s Coastal Virginia Chapter in Norfolk — Executive Director Katie Niehoff and Philanthropy Officer Jenny Lester.

Parker then highlighted his family. He said he has been blessed to be a son of Lillian Lamb Parker and Robert Frederick Parker Sr. and a brother of Benjamin Franklin “Frankie” Parker and Robert “Bobby” Frederick Parker Jr.

“Frankie is here tonight with his amazing family: Sherry Colbert, Robby Colbert, Tommy Parker and Becky Boutwell,” Clyde said. 

He closed his acceptance speech by saying, “I thank you for this great honor.”