Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, June 1, 2003, pg. 5
Occasionally in this column we write a feature story relating to an historical milestone from years ago. Robert “Bobby” Parker recently celebrated his 75th birthday on May 27 in Battle Creek, at a special party given to him by friends and acquaintances which included a special proclamation from the City of Battle Creek. Born in Albion in 1928, he is the son of Ruth and Grady Parker, Sr. The family lived at 613 N. Williams St. in the 1920s, and then at 1201 Chauncey St. in the 1930s and 1940s. Grady was originally a grinder at the Albion Malleable Iron Company in the 1920s, then became an auto mechanic in the 1930s. He operated his own gas/service station at 621 Austin Avenue in the 1940s. Ruth was an accomplished musician and taught music for many years. The family later moved to Jackson in 1949.
Educated in Albion, Bobby attended Austin Elementary School and happens to be in that October, 1935 16 mm. film of the Albion Public Schools and is shown sitting at his desk in his second grade class there. Bobby graduated from Washington Gardner High School in 1946, and was class vice-president. He was quite an accomplished athlete and played football and baseball, continuing the latter several years after his graduation. He served in the U.S. Army in the early 1950s, and was employed by the Battle Creek Federal Center for twenty-three years. He graduated from Western Michigan University in 1961.
During his school years here, Bobby was actively involved in the Boy Scout Troop 62, an all-black troop sponsored by the West Ward Parent-Teachers Association. The troop was headed for many years by Edward “Doc” Anderson, whom we wrote about in the May 18, 1997 edition of this column. Mr. Anderson guided and encouraged many boys in the scouting movement. Bobby especially was mentored by Mr. Anderson. As a result of persistence and encouragement from his parents, Mr. Anderson, and others, Bobby Parker holds the historical distinction of being the first minority person to attain the rank of Eagle Scout in Albion.
The award was given to Bobby on the afternoon of Sunday, November 26, 1944 at a Court of Honor held at the Albion High School auditorium. The event honored sixteen scouts from Land O’ Lakes Council troops from various cities who were awarded the Eagle Scout badge after passing the board of review. For his Eagle scout project, Bobby learned stone masonry work and constructed a stone fireplace, and a stone garden fountain. This was a skill he has kept with him during his lifetime.
Speaker for the occasion was Charles W. Smallwood, city manager of Charlotte, who spoke on the subject, “Measure of Men.” In addition to Bobby, six other Albion boys received their Eagle awards that afternoon, including three brothers: Donald, Lawrence, and Richard Crandall. The Eagle award given Bobby was an especially significant milestone to the all-black Troop 62 and the leadership of “Doc” Anderson.
The Eagle Scout badge became a cherished item in the Parker family, and was kept for safe keeping for many years by Bobby’s mother Ruth. Unfortunately after her passing in 1971, Bobby’s Eagle badge/pin disappeared from his mother’s jewelry box and was never seen again. It remained only a memory which Bobby occasionally talked about at his establishment “Bobby’s,” (which opened in 1967) located at 117 Main St. just east of downtown Battle Creek.
A group of Battle Creek area celebrities regularly meet at 1:30 p.m. on Mondays at Bobby’s for sandwiches and informal talk. They learned of his plight. One person in particular, long-time Battle Creek scout leader Jim Hazel, was able to pull some strings and get a replacement Eagle Scout badge/pin for Bobby! This was presented to him earlier this year. Bobby was also given a giant large donor’s version of an Eagle Scout cloth patch, the regular size of which would have been awarded and sewn onto the scout’s uniform. Bobby now proudly displays both these items on the mantle of his business fireplace today.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a current photograph of Bobby Parker, Albion’s first minority Eagle Scout. He is holding his replacement Eagle Scout badge/pin (right), and the donor’s patch (left) in front of his business establishment. When in Battle Creek, stop by and visit Bobby and congratulate him.
Mr. Bobby Parker in 2003
POSTCRIPT: Bobby Parker passed away on Saturday, January 24, 2004 in Battle Creek after a long illness. Pictured here in this internet version is a photograph of Bobby in his Boy Scout uniform (courtesy of the family) at the age of 15 in the early 1940s, after achieving the "Order of the Arrow" award."
Order of the Arrow Award sash, worn by Bobby Parker, circa 1940
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic