Harold T. Parker (1907-2002)
West Columbia, South Carolina
Harold T. Parker, 94, Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, died peacefully on May 14, 2002. He had been a resident of Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Community in West Columbia since 1992.
Born near Cincinnati, Ohio on December 26, 1907, he received his B.A. from the University of Chicago. After study with Carl Becker at Cornell University, he returned to Chicago for a Ph.D., under Louis Gottschalk, in French History. His long teaching career at Duke University, begun in 1939, was interrupted only by service in the Pacific Theater during the Second World War. He formally retired in 1977 but continued to teach far into his emeritus years, at Duke and elsewhere.
In 1980 he married Louise Salley of Orangeburg SC, also a retired French historian. They settled in Durham NC and pursued extensive research and publication projects, contributing frequently to colloquia in the United States and abroad. After they moved to Still Hopes, the pace of his work scarcely diminished, though he was deeply grieved by his wife's declining health and eventual death in January 1999. He produced several substantial publications over the decade; in the last three years alone he completed two books and a number of essays, as well as consulting on a well-received PBS special on the life of Napoleon (2001). He often spoke to audiences at Still Hopes on historical topics and remained in active contact with colleagues and friends until a few days before his death. He was still writing almost daily.
Over his career, he taught a wide range of subjects, but his expertise was in the history of France during the eighteenth century. Notable among his wide range of publications are The Cult of Antiquity and the French Revolutionaries (1937, reprinted 1965); Three Napoleonic Battles (1944, reprinted 1983); two detailed, thoughtfully planned volumes on the French Bureau of Commerce during the years prior to the Revolution (1979, 1993); and numerous works on the character and career of Napoleon, a subject of enduring fascination for him. As a teacher and writer he developed a lifelong interest in the presentation of history, writing on topics of biography and historiography. He enjoyed an enormous international network of correspondents.
His commitment to learning and teaching extended into his activities at St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Durham, where he held a longstanding membership. He was frequently involved with youth programs and projects, but he also taught by example, as an avid participant in his church's strong response to issues of social conscience that arose in the 1960s and beyond. These and many other issues and events are chronicled in The History of St. Philip's Episcopal Church, 1878-1994 (1996), developed from archives in collaboration with the Parish History Committee. An equally admired companion volume, Sermons from St. Philip's, 1912-1994 (2001), gives a vivid spiritual immediacy to the church's unfolding story. Both books show the same scholarly acuity, reverence for truth, and inclusive spirit that were the hallmark of his professional career. They also reveal something of the author's personal nature -- candid, modest, good-humored, charitable -- that many who encountered him will recall with pleasure and affection.
Survivors include several cousins and a number of close friends and lifelong colleagues. Late in life he also found valued new friendships among the residents and staff at Still Hopes. Especially deserving of recognition are Barbara Simmons, personal aide to both Louise and Harold, and Zollie Hamelryck, who handled his correspondence and manuscript preparation.
A graveside service is planned for 11 A.M. Friday, May 16, 2002 at Sunnyside Cemetery in Orangeburg SC. Arrangements are by Duke-Harley Funeral Home there. A brief memorial service will be held at Still Hopes Retirement Community on Friday afternoon. A memorial service at St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Durham NC will be held at 11 A.M. Tuesday, May 21. Memorial gifts may be sent to The Harold T. Parker Trust, c/o Sarah Preyor, Duke University Development Office, P.O. Box 90600, Durham NC 27708; St. Philip's Episcopal Church, 403 East Main Street, Durham, NC, 27701; or Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Community, West Columbia SC 29169.
More comprehensive biographical information and references, including a eulogy by Dr. Owen Connelly, will presently be posted on the Internet at http://www.uncp.edu/home/rwb, with provisions there for e-mail comments and inquiries (via email@example.com).
Last Update: 26 June 2002