Johnson City mayor honors 99-year-old World War II veteran, community leader with proclamation

Zach Vance • Updated Apr 1, 2019 at 7:37 PM

At 99 years old, Charles Edwin Parker has served during World War II, owned and operated two businesses and raised a family of four children — not to mention his involvement in numerous community clubs and commissions throughout the years.

All of Parker’s contributions to his Johnson City community of family and friends have not went unnoticed, as evidenced Monday during a special proclamation on behalf of the City of Johnson City and read personally by Mayor Jenny Brock. 

Dozens of family and friends attended the special event inside the day room of NHC HealthCare, where Parker now stays. 

Sitting at the front of the room, Parker listened attentively as Brock read the proclamation, written by Parker’s family friend, attorney Erick Herrin. Fighting back tears at times while she read, Brock said she spent much of her teenage youth inside Parker’s home with his daughter, Amy Stover. 

“The purpose of this proclamation honoring Ed Parker’s lifetime of achievements — all of which are underscored by his earned reputation for honesty, integrity, faith and sacrifice — is so that future generations may be inspired by the example of his life in the same manner that we, too, have been inspired,” Brock said, reading the proclamation. 

Parker was born in July 1919 inside his grandparents’ home on Tennessee Street in Johnson City. That year, Johnson City was just celebrating its 50th anniversary. Parker attended Lamar Elementary School, but spent much of his childhood helping his family tend their farm. 

Later in life, financial circumstances prevented Parker from attending college, but he was about to start taking accounting courses, offered by the International Accounting Society, when World War II interrupted his plans. 

Parker immediately signed up for an aviation training program before he eventually received training from Johnson City’s own Jane Hilbert, who was running a flight school in the absence of her husband, who was serving in the Army Air Corps. 

“It was during this training that Ed acquired the nickname ‘Ace’ Parker, and after 7 hours and 20 minutes of instruction, he solo’d,” Brock said. 

In 1944, Parker passed his examinations and was officially introduced to active duty in the Army Air Corps. His flight training included acrobatic flights, consisting of loops, slow rolls and snap rolls. He was eventually commissioned as a second lieutenant, and was preparing to partake in the invasion of Japan when the atomic bomb stopped his deployment. 

Following his release from active duty in 1953, Parker started pursuing his accounting certification once again, and passed all four sections of the exam on his first try.

During the 1960s, Parker founded his own accounting firm, which quickly gained a reputation for “professionalism and integrity.” Almost a decade later, in 1972, Parker acquired the Johnson City Bedding Company from the Alison family, and served as its president and CEO until 1986. 

To this day, Parker still holds the title as the company’s chairman, while his son, Bob Parker, serves as president. 

“Something you may not know is that dad’s work continues today,” Bob Parker half-jokingly told the crowd. 

“We have a satellite office here (at NHC HealthCare), and we have a daily chairman’s briefing. He has a computer. He’s keeping in touch with family and friends and other folks via social media and email. So he’s right there just in our satellite office.” 

Up until two months ago, Parker’s daughter, former Southside Elementary School Principal Amy Stover, said her father was still doing much of his company’s accounting work using their own software.

Parker’s other two children are John Parker and Sally McClain. 

“We could not have asked for a better father. We’re so grateful and blessed. He led by example, insisting on excellence and raised us right,” Bob Parker said. “He continues to be an influence and example today. I really like the term, in the proclamation, ‘moral compass.’ I think that’s an excellent way to describe my dad and what all he’s done, not only for our family, but for others, as well.”

Parker's community involvement included participation in the Tri-Cities Airport Commission, Salvation Army and Johnson City Kiwanis Club. He also served as a board member for Johnson City Memorial Hospital, Watauga Mental Health Association, Home Federal Savings and Loan Association and First Tennessee Bank.

“It was really, really special. I was afraid he wouldn’t he wouldn’t let us do that because he doesn’t like a lot of recognition. But, he said, ‘Yes’ he would like that. And I just thought, ‘How nice that someone gets to hear these nice things about themselves while they’re still alive,’” Stover said. 

“He’s had a good, long life.”