Veteran newsman succumbs

Published 9:04 am Thursday, April 11, 2013

By Michael Futch

Fayetteville Observer

FAYETTEVILLE – Joseph Roy Parker Jr., an Ahoskie native who was the founding editor of The Fayetteville Times and later became respected statewide for his vast knowledge of Fayetteville and Fort Bragg history, died Wednesday, April 3.

He was 83.

Parker died of congestive heart failure after a year of declining health. Funeral services were held Monday at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Fayetteville.

“Sometimes, the media and military clash. Never with Roy Parker,” said retired Gen. James J. Lindsay, a former commander of Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division. “We disagreed sometimes. We were arguing about something one time. I said, ‘Roy, you know you will always have the last word.’ And he said, ‘Don’t you ever forget it.’ I’ve known a lot of people in the press, and he was actually one of the best.”

He died at his Fayetteville home. Family members, including his longtime wife, Marie, were at his side.

“His family was first. He was a proud ‘Yellow Dog’ Democrat,” said his son, Scott, a copy editor and page designer at The Fayetteville Observer. “The sweetest fellow you would ever meet. Everybody loved him. I was just always in total awe of him.”

Mr. Parker, who spoke with the slow drawl of a Southern gentleman, belonged to a family with deep North Carolina roots. From boyhood, his life was linked to the age-old printing press and clackety-clack typewriters.

For 40 years, Parker left his mark on the community. He told valuable stories in print, which were crafted from his vast knowledge and sense and respect for the past. He penned a small collection of books: “The Best of Roy Parker Jr.: Reliving Fayetteville’s Storied Military History” in 2007, “Cumberland County: A Brief History” in 1990 and the photo and postcard collection “Moments in Time” in 1999.

Parker became “the go-to guy on Fayetteville history,” said Michael Hill, research supervisor with the state Office of Archives and History in Raleigh.

With Parker at the helm, The Fayetteville Times published its first edition July 2, 1973. He would later serve as an editorial writer, contributing editor and military history columnist for The Fayetteville Observer. The Times merged with The Observer in 1990.

“Roy was very proud of his family’s newspaper heritage,” said Ramon Yarborough, former publisher of The Fayetteville Observer and president of Fayetteville Publishing Co. “The Fayetteville Times and, later, the Observer-Times benefited from his remarkable memory and writing ability. He was a great newspaperman and friend.”

Born Feb. 12, 1930, in Ahoskie, Parker grew up the son of a newspaperman. His father, Joseph Roy Parker Sr., and an uncle, J. Mayon Parker, owned and operated local weekly newspapers in Hertford, Bertie and Northampton counties. What is now the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald was once part of the Parkers’ publications.

In 1941, Mr. Parker’s family moved to Chapel Hill where his father taught journalism at the University of North Carolina. Roy Parker would graduate from the school with a journalism degree in 1952, putting that knowledge to use in the family-owned chain of newspapers.

From 1963 to 1971, Parker worked as a Washington correspondent for Raleigh’s News & Observer. Later, he spent a year with that publication covering the political scene in Raleigh. In July 1972, he left to work on the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Hargrove “Skipper” Bowles.

He would lead The Fayetteville Times a year later.

Parker earned numerous honors, to include the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame (inducted in 1999). Seven years later he received the state’s highest civilian honor – the North Carolina Award for public service. The award is bestowed for contribution to the arts, public service and science, and Parker was known to devote time and attention to organizations dedicated to history and the arts.

Over the years, Parker would earn honors for his work, including N.C. Press Association awards for writing excellence in the editorial, criticism and column categories. The UNC School of Journalism awarded him a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1986, and he was named a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at HarvardUniversity.

In January 1993, he began to file his weekly columns in the Observer on the region’s rich military history, producing an important body of work that drew from the dawn of the American Revolution to the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

(This article was reprinted with permission by the Fayetteville Observer. Michael Futch can be reached at or 910-486-3529.)