THE IMPISH SAGE: HAROLD T. PARKER (1907-2002)
Harold Parker was an internationally known scholar, whose first book, The Cult of Antiquity and the French Revolutionaries (1934; Reprint 1965) became a recognized classic. He volunteered for military service in World War II, although he was already thirty-four in 1941. Afterward, he wrote with authority on almost every aspect of French Revolutionary and Napoleonic History– from the economic and administrative to the personality of Napoleon. His last works, however, were done out of love for his church in Durham, NC, viz., The History of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church (1996) and Sermons from St. Philip’s, 1912-1994 (2001).
Harold will be best remembered by a generation of graduate and undergraduate students whom he taught at Duke University, and who revere and love him. He ministered to them–and ministered is the right word. They were his children, for whom he would cheerfully interrupt his own work, no matter how important. He will live on also in the memories of dozens of historians whose careers he advanced in various ways. For example, he wrote the introduction to my first book – when he was already famous and I was a nobody – an enormous favor.
Bear with me while I quote from a letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (XIII), there is a point to it:1: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.Harold Parker had charity (or Christian love, as it is sometimes rendered). He was much more than a famous scholar; he was a teacher of Socratic stature and a genuinely good man. In May 2002, he was still advising me and my students at the University of South Carolina from his retirement home in Columbia. He conferred with one of my graduate students a few days before his death, which, thank God, came gently in his sleep.
2: And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3: And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5: Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6: Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7: Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8: Charity never faileth . . ..
Withal, he never lost his sense of humor. He had the knack of pointing out the most egregious mistakes with an impish smile and soft words. He was everywhere recognized as a sage, but though he often laughed at himself, he smiled at others.
I will remember him always as “the impish sage.”
The University of South Carolina
This Page is Maintained by Robert W. Brown
Last Update: 24 June 2002