(Editor’s Note: The GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal citations, such as this one, are read to the audience at the Annual Alumni Luncheon and then presented as a keepsake to the recipients.)
Distinguished Service Medal Citation
Roy Parker Jr. ’52
In a journalism career that has spanned 45 years, Roy Parker can say that if it’s under the Carolina blue sky, most likely he has “been there, seen that, written about it.” His modesty probably prevents him from realizing how many writers he has encouraged along the way.
Roy can be said to have been born with printer’s ink in his blood. His father was a journalism professor at UNC, and the Parkers published several weekly newspapers in eastern North Carolina. Roy was involved early – by the time he got to The Daily Tar Heel he had sold papers, covered baseball games and worked as a printer’s assistant. Like others before and after him, Roy can say proudly that he spent more time in that little office up in the corner of the Graham Memorial and out at the print shop than he did in classrooms.
He has been editor of the family weeklies, a Washington correspondent and a chronicler of the state capital. When he left Raleigh he took the editorship of the newly established Fayetteville Times. In retirement he still publishes a weekly column on military history and is the author of a history of Fayetteville and Fort Bragg from colonial days.
Many a journalist has traveled the same paths Roy has. Many have been, as a colleague described him, “both prolific and responsible.” But there is something a good deal deeper in Roy’s commitment to the written word. Its clues lie not just in straight-fact reporting or volume of column inches – Roy is a devotee of the literature and the history of the region and state that drew his curiosity.
The author of writing teacher Bland Simpson ’70 says of Roy, “His very strong sense of history and continuity has allowed him, in his literary column, to comment critically and quite constructively on the progression of works of individual writers as well as the general progression of the late 20th-century Tar Heel literary renaissance – and how it fit with and was related to the earlier blossoming that grew out of the folk play movement. He has a broad knowledge of the writings and the writers’ personalities, from all cross the 20th century, and he has used his column to educate, explain, ponder all this.”
Fayetteville hasn’t been the same, writes his friend in the North Caroliniana Society H.G. Jones, since the newspapers there stole him away from Raleigh. Roy’s continuing book column, Jones says, “gave a boost to many an aspiring Tar Heel author.” He will receive the annual recognition of the North Carolina Writers Conference this summer.
He has made the time to support the state’s artistic and literary endeavors, and the University in particular. He served with vigor and distinction on the Bicentennial Observance Committee. Among other positions he has served as a district GAA director, and in his spare time he has helped plan the 50th reunion of his UNC class. Roy is a loving friend of the journalism school, and a caring guardian of history who still lends a hand to what he calls one of our crown jewels, the North Carolina Collection.
He is a self-described product of Frank Graham ’09, Hugh Lefler, Doris Betts ’54 and Sam Ragan – “All those people raised me to honor North Carolina literature. Carolina is one of the few things I get emotional about.”
To a journalist and a preservationist, perhaps the highest praise comes from a friend of Roy’s and of Carolina’s who says, “I would rather listen to him hold forth on topics of the day – or on any subject – than just about anyone.”