Goodbye Earl

Posted 12/3/19

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted that the only constant in life is change. Madisonville native and longtime community fixture Earl Parker would seem to embody that notion: Baseball player, Madisonville High School Principal, computer salesman, Madison County Elections Administrator.

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Goodbye Earl


The Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted that the only constant in life is change. Madisonville native and longtime community fixture Earl Parker would seem to embody that notion: Baseball player, Madisonville High School Principal, computer salesman, Madison County Elections Administrator.

But truly, the only constant in Earl Parker’s life is Madison County.

And now, Parker pivots again.

On Nov. 26, Parker retired as Madison County’s Election Administrator after 12 years of service, an occasion marked with a farewell party in the Madison County Courthouse. Family and friends, including Parker’s wife Jo Ann, attended the celebration along with a number of local officials. A cake was served that featured the logo of Parker’s alma matter, Texas Tech, as well as the county seal.

Election judge Janet Boone assumed the role of elections administrator Monday.

Madison County Judge Tony Leago spoke about Parker’s service to the crowd gathered in the courthouse’s J.P. Courtroom.

“I want to thank you for the service you have rendered to me and the other taxpayers in this county,” said Leago. “The work you put in helped ensure that we not only have elections of the highest integrity, but that we have something as residents to be proud of. The footprints that you have made through the years are huge.”

Before those footprints made their mark in county government, Parker enjoyed a diverse career in education, coaching and technology. This included a stint as the principal of Madisonville High School for eight years. These positions and the relationships made along the way would ultimately define his life and help create the local figure he has since become.

Parker was born in Kosse in 1934, but his family moved back to Madisonville before his second birthday. He was a middle child and has five sisters and one brother, all of whom are still alive today.

Like many kids in East Texas, much of his early years revolved around sports.

“Baseball pretty much shaped my life,” said Parker. “Madisonville did not have a high school team back then, but we got a group together that competed against surrounding communities. It is one of the things that helped draw me out from being a reclusive kid to participating in society.”

His father, Earl Parker Sr., received credit for creating his desire to play baseball. Earl Sr. helped clear the fields for their team and transported the players to games. He also participated in local softball leagues until he was 43.

Parker described his father as a straight disciplinarian who taught him a lot of values in life. He called his mother, Myrtia, as loving of a person there could be.

“Raising seven children has got to be a super chore,” said Parker. “But I am pretty sure she never considered it one.”

He also credits one of his first official jobs for helping mold his future from an early age. Parker spent three years working at the Madisonville Meteor from 1948 until 1951, beginning at the age of 13.

“It gave me a means of income and a background that would allow me to get any job," said Parker. “That was one of the things that helped shape my life.”

But it was his love for the diamond that would take him out of Madisonville to attend Texas Tech University in Lubbock as a member of the 1958 Red Raider baseball team. It also led to his love for coaching and mentoring.

During his senior year, he coached Tech’s freshman team – then called the Picadors to match the varsity squad’s Matador moniker - as well as an American Legion squad. The latter won a state championship under Parker in 1959. An April 7, 1959 article in Texas Tech student newspaper, The Toreador, notes the Picadors’ then-undefeated record and says Parker was coaching “one of the finest freshman nines at Tech yet.”

“Coaching is teaching,” said Parker. “You really learn more from the students than they learn from you. There were a lot of instances where an interaction with a student or player would change the way I dealt with all of them simply because they teach you a lot about life.”

Parker married Jo Ann Baugh in June of 1963. She was the sister of two brothers he had recruited to play on his local baseball team in high school.

“I am not sure if either of us knew the other existed at that time,” said Parker. “But when I was at Tech and came home on breaks we had a couple of dates. In 1962, I came back for the holidays and called her up to ask her to a movie and things went from there.”

While the couple never had children of their own, Parker spent the majority of his career giving guidance to students and players.

“I liked to tell everybody that I already had close to 500 kids every year,” he said.

He landed his first teaching job at Seminole High School, where he spent one year before switching to Lubbock High School to coach baseball and teach American History. He would remain in Lubbock until 1968.

After Lubbock, Parker was hired as the first assistant football coach at Aldine High School. Four years later, he accepted the head coaching job at Eisenhower High School, which had just opened. Eisenhower would win just one game during his first two seasons at the helm.

“I felt real down after every loss,” said Parker. “But the next morning (after games), those kids were fired up as if they were 10-0 because they were getting the opportunity to play. That was what was important to them and it taught me a pretty good lesson. In participating in athletics, you learn a lot.”

The tough times at Eisenhower would not last long. Parker’s second losing season was his last as he led the team to a winning record in each of his final six years. At the time, only district champions advanced to the postseason. By today's standards, the team would have qualified for the playoffs in each of those seasons.

Parker returned home in 1980. He was an assistant football coach for the Mustangs for one season before a new challenge presented itself.

“The main reason I came back to Madisonville was because my parents were getting up in the years and our family felt like someone needed to be here,” said Parker. “I had a profession that allowed me to come here and an opportunity opened up.”

That opportunity was the principal position at MHS, which Parker would hold until 1989. He had enjoyed his years as a teacher but now had a chance to work in a new facet of the education system.

“Back when I was teaching and coaching in Lubbock, there were several opportunities to go into administration, but it just did not feel like the right time for me,” said Parker. “I told people that once I was through coaching I would consider it. When the opportunity came up, I felt like it was the right thing to do.

The kids were always the most important thing. It was a job that I felt was important and I also felt like I was good at it.”

After retiring from the position in ’89, Parker was looking for yet another new challenge. He decided that computers would be a good route to go since he had been involved with introducing them to Madisonville schools.

He worked in computer sales for Tandy Corporation for three years before going into business as a self-employed technician. He decided to make this transition after selling a network to the Bryan School District.

The computers were sent with the wrong sound cards and Tandy told them it would take six months to come down and correct the error. Instead, Parker talked with the software company and worked with their technician to put in new sound cards.

“I made the decision at that time that if I was going to be doing that sort of thing, I might as well go into business on my own,” said Parker.

He would work as a self-employed technician for 13 years and also reentered the classroom as a substitute teacher afterwards. In 2007, the job of Election Administrator was created.

He first learned of the position when former colleague Charlotte Barrett, who worked as the county clerk at the time, told him about the new opening. A successful interview led to 12 years at the position and a standard of innovative progress.

Appropriate for a former computer salesman, in 2010 Madison County became the ninth county in Texas to establish voting centers and were the first in the state to install a new digital Hart voting system. Hart sent Parker a plaque honoring this achievement for his retirement.