Alabama Academy of Honor

Robert Parker

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1976.

For more than 40 years Dr. Robert Parker worked tirelessly to improve the health of the children of Alabama.

Dr. Parker was born in Newman, Georgia, in 1902, and was educated at Vanderbilt. He served his internship and his residence at Babies Hospital in New York and became a pediatrician in Montgomery during the early 1930's.

From the time he established his practice, he was a popular doctor, who made a full round of office hours and house calls every day. In addition, he worked as a volunteer for a number of civic organizations and served with distinction on the boards of the Montgomery Red Cross, the Children's Center, the United Appeal, and the Tuberculosis Hospital. For 35 years he acted as an advisor to the Junior League of Montgomery and worked in the free baby clinic they sponsored. And because of the esteem the community felt for him, he was chosen to serve on both the county school board and the City Commission on Community Affairs, the first bi-racial commission in the history of Montgomery.

In 1950 he became the leader of the Montgomery YMCA program, which has engaged most of his attention for the past 25 years. When Dr. Parker became a member of the board of the Montgomery YMCA, it was a relatively insignificant organization with about 900 members. At the time of his induction into the Academy, after a quarter-century of his vital and dedicated leadership, the YMCA in Montgomery had nearly 25,000 members, and its programs were housed in six buildings and two camps. Dr. Parker's hours of work had borne fruits in a program that benefitted not only a sizable proportion of the people of Montgomery, but also the people of the neighboring communities of Prattville, Wetumpka, and Enterprise.

Through his service on state commissions and boards, Dr. Parker eventually extended his good influence into every county in the state. For 16 years he served on the Board of Censors of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, which acts concurrently as the state's Committee on Public Health. He was also instrumental in establishing the state Board of Mental Health, of which he is still a member. Within the medical profession itself, he worked to maintain a high standard of professional competence as the president of the Medical Association of Montgomery County, the chief of staff of St. Margaret's Hospital, and an interviewer for the medical schools at Vanderbilt and the University of Alabama.

Dr. Parker, now deceased, was honored repeatedly for his contributions to the health and happiness of his fellows. In 1953 the Montgomery YMCA youth organizations named him their "Man of the Year" for his efforts to transform the Y into a strong and vital organization. A few years later the Governor of Alabama presented him with a special citation for his multiple contributions to medicine, and the Alabama Medical Association gave him its A. H. Robbins Award for outstanding community service. In 1974 the American Medical Association honored him with its Benjamin Rush Award for humanitarian service--the highest such award given to a doctor in the United States.

But none of these awards meant more to Dr. Parker than the gathering held in Montgomery in May, 1973, when more than 500 of his friends expressed their gratitude for his unstinting work in their behalf. On that occasion he was dubbed the "greatest medical statesman" in the history of the state. Undoubtedly the thousands of children who are healthy because of his concern would agree.