When we moved to Prince George in 1986 Henry was already on the Board of Supervisors. We didn’t know it then, but he had already been on the Board for 7 years, plus or minus. As we drove around the county looking for a place to rent until our Oklahoma house could sell, Bob stepped into Parker’s grocery to make inquires of possible places for lease. Parker’s Store was not the only “country” grocery in which we made inquiries, but for Bob this was a particularly interesting experience.
Upon making some small talk and asking some questions about the county, etc., Henry asked Bob … “Who are your people?”
Was this a way of saying ‘You’re not from around here, are you?” Of course, I suspect Henry had already surmised that. Bob was not in uniform that day, so I doubt that question would have been asked had he been, because Henry, a veteran himself, seemed to always have a warmth for the military, except when the County was in negotiations with Ft. Lee for one reason or another.
Many years later while serving on the Planning Commission I had the opportunity to have a number of conversations with Henry and with his allies on the Board. We had very different visions about the future of the County and how to prepare for it. He was singularly polite almost to the point of gentlemanly proportions, but he didn’t forget or forgive my divergent views. My tenure on the Planing Commission was short lived.
My interactions with Henry were few in last five years or so and I don’t know how the growth of the county, the expansion of Ft. Lee, or the coming of Rolls Royce and the Manufacturing and Research Consortium might have changed his views about the future of Prince George, or if they had any impact at all. What had to be apparent to him, though, was that the county would never again be ‘his’ county of the 60s and 70s.
I am glad to have known Henry Parker. He was an institution and will be fondly remembered by many.
On February 24th (tonight as I write this) the Board will discuss filling Henry’s now vacant District 2 seat. Likely the person will be appointed, but will persons of color and/or a woman be sought to fill that vacancy until the General Election in November? Open questions at this point.
In preparing to write these thoughts a week after his death and reflect on Henry’s 36 years as a local elected official, I had planned to clip his official photo from the county’s web site to add to this post. It was no longer there.