Prominent former banker and community leader Thomas Gordon Parker, a man described as a force in the community, has died.
Parker passed away on Sept. 24, 2011, at the age of 81. His memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Oct. 2, at the First Baptist Church in Taylor.
Parker’s youngest son, Tom, remembered his father as an “extremely devoted and attentive” father to his three children — Martha, Steve and himself — and in his later years, his involvement with his six grandchildren.
“We will remember how affectionate he was,” Tom Parker said. “That will be our enduring memory of him. And his generosity — he was a very generous person.”
As his son, Tom Parker recalled him most as a father, noting the secret hug he had for his children and grandchildren.
“He would clench his jaw a little and bump yours,” he recalled.
He also recalled the enormous tree house his father built in a tree at the family’s home on Cecelia Street.
“He was always a bit of a kid himself,” Tom Parker said.
Tom Parker also recalled the occasions when his father’s civic involvment and family time coincided. Some of those involved his father’s work with the Texas Baptist Children’s Home, where he served on the board, Tom said.
“He would on occasion bring children to live with us from time to time from the Texas Baptist Children’s Home,” Tom recalled.
He was very close to his father, noting his father served as best man at his wedding.
The kindness of his father, whom he described as having a “big white beard and looked like Santa Claus,” was rooted in his nature.
Parker was born on Jan. 2, 1930, on a farm near Brookhaven, now Fort Hood, Texas, to parents Carlos George Parker and his wife, Rose, and brother, Dale.
As a student at Belton High School, Parker was active in student life, serving as class president all four years and participating in sports, in the National Honor Society and in school plays. He was just as active outside of school, where he was a delegate to Boys’ State and became an Eagle Scout.
After high school, Parker went to Baylor University, where he graduated with a bachelor in business administration degree in 1951. During college, he began his banking career through an internship in Dallas.
During this time, he met Gwyna Lee Smith on a blind date. Upon her graduation in 1953, the couple married and moved to Taylor and started their family.
Parker spent his career in banking, but volunteered his time and talents to many civic organizations and boards.
In 1954, Parker began working at First Taylor National Bank. He served as chair of the bank, and later chaired the board at Thorndale State Bank and served as director of the Texas Independent Bank of Dallas and the Council of Community Bankers Division of the Texas Bankers’ Association. He served on the board of directors of the Texas Power and Light Company, Taylor Industrial Development Corporation, the Williamson County Industrial Development Council, Temple College at Taylor, and Johns Community Hospital.
In addition, he served as president of the Taylor Chamber of Commerce, the Taylor Lions Club, the Taylor United Fund and the Friends of the Taylor Public Library and served in multiple leadership positions of the First Baptist Church of Taylor.
Parker was named the Taylor Chamber of Commerce’s “Taylor Citizen of the Year” in 1999.
It was through his civic involvement that Parker will be remembered best by the community.
City Councilor John McDonald remembered Parker as a “gentle, kind person” who always wanted to share his love of the outdoors with the boys of Troop 167 of the Boy Scouts as an assistant to his own father, who served as scoutmaster.
“Mr. Parker worked with him in the capacity of assistant scoutmaster, going out with the boys and helping with campouts and jamborees and that sort of thing,” McDonald said. “ … He really enjoyed being out with the kids. He enjoyed working with the kids, trying to share his enjoyment of the outdoors so they’d have an appreciation of the outdoors and of scouting.”
Describing Parker as a soft-spoken, man, McDonald also noted Parker was “instrumental” in working with the Texas Department of Transportation in getting the loop around Taylor named after his father.
But it was Parker’s work with what is now the Taylor Economic Development Corporation (originally called the Taylor Economic Development Council) that many will remember him for, John Nelson said.
Nelson worked with Parker during his years there.
“I was very, very impressed with him,” Nelson said. “He was very, very positive about life in general. He was a good example of what you’d like to be. He lived a good life. He didn’t just preach it, he lived it.”
Clark Jackson, who worked with Parker on the hospital board, agreed, noting that Parker was very interested in providing a good hospital for Taylor.
“(Parker) was one of the hospital board’s original members,” Jackson said. “We were all very appreciative of his input. I always appreciated him, but there was a lot more of the man than that.”
He noted Parker was also one of the most energetic fundraisers he met, and wasn’t afraid of hard work.
Ed Komandosky noted the same qualities, calling Parker “a powerful force in the community,” who bounced back from the banking collapse of the late 1980s to become an insurance salesman.
Nelson agreed, noting that Parker was a good man.
“He was just a good man who worked hard for the community,” Nelson said.
Tom Parker noted his father wanted his six grandchildren to be his legacy, and that his father enjoyed traveling with his family, including the grandchildren, to places such as Spain, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Cayman Islands,
“One of the things I will remember most about his was his sense of community,” Tom Parker said. “When I reviewed (his letters and papers), I found a systematic and pervasive sense of community. He invested himself in the community and that a very powerful effect on people.”