Parker, Dr. Fitzgerald Sale

7/21/1936

DR. FITZGERALD SALE PARKER
March 16, 1863 - July 21, 1936
 
The subject of this memoir was the second son of Bishop Linus Parker and Ellen Katherine Burruss Parker. He was born at the home of his maternal grandfather in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, on March 16, 1863, and died at Nashville, Tennessee, July 21, 1936. His early years were spent in New Orleans, where he attended the University High School and was for two years a student at the University of Louisiana, now Tulane University, but did not receive a degree. He then spent one year at the New England Conservatory of Music where he studied Organ, Piano, and Harmony.
Any effort at the interpretation of Dr. Parker’s life and work must take into consideration his ancestral background. He grew up in the home of cultured and deeply religious parents who reflected an inheritance of piety and culture representative of the best in American life. His maternal grandfather, Rev. John C. Burruss, was a native of Caroline County, Virginia, and was originally a member of the Episcopal Church. He was converted in early manhood and entered the Methodist itinerancy in 1814. At the end of two years in the traveling connection, he located, but in a little while he resumed his itinerant relation and followed the westward trail of civilization and of the Church. In 1822, he appears to have been the presiding elder of the “Cahawba District” in Alabama; in 1823 and 1824, was pastor at Natchez and Washington, Mississippi, and he was then made the President of Elizabeth Female Academy, a pio-neer institution for the education of women, located at Washington, then the Capital of the State. His maternal grandmother was born in Boston, where her family became members of the Methodist Church at a time when it was not popular to be associated with the followers of Mr. Wesley. Mrs. Burruss was herself a woman of sound piety and a worthy reflection of the culture in which she was born and brought up.
Bishop Linus Parker, whose ability and ecclesiastical eminence must have made a deep and abiding impression upon the mind of his son, was born in Rome, New York, and he came to New Orleans at the age of sixteen years, immediately following the division of the Church on account of slavery, and at a time when a Northern connection was no asset to one in the South. His parents were fervent Methodists, having become such in Lichfield County, Connecticut. Through his ability and his genuine re-ligious devotion, young Linus Parker made a place for himself in Southern hearts. The mother of Dr. Parker was born at Courtland, Alabama, and she grew to womanhood in Mississippi and Louisiana. With such a heri-tage of culture and Christian connection, it is no matter of surprise that Dr. Parker himself should have been serious minded, a great reader, and that he should have attained eminence through his own cultural and intellectual acquisitions.
He was converted and joined Felicity Street Methodist Church about 1874, probably under the ministry of Dr. John Matthews. His early in-terest in religious activities is recorded in a reminiscence of Dr. John Han-non, written at the time Dr. Parker was made the Secretary of the Epworth League Board. He said: ‘it was a legacy of jewels Dr. Munsey left me at St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans. Among the brightest was ‘Jerry Parker,’ son of my then elder, the sainted Bishop Linus Parker.” He then went on to say that before the Epworth League came into being at Los Angeles, he and young Jerry Parker were sponsoring such work in New Orleans, and that the prophecy in the boy, Jerry Parker, had been ful-filled in Dr. Fitzgerald Parker at the head of the Epworth League work. The time to which Dr. Hannon refers was 1876, when Dr. Parker was in his fourteenth year.
For a short time after his school and college work was ended, Dr. Parker followed in the footsteps of his father, engaging in business. At first he was in the hardware business and then a clerk in the British and American Mortgage Company of New Orleans. Manifestly, however, the call of the ministry was already echoing in his mind and heart, and he was soon drawn into the path indicated by his early interest and activity.
He was admitted on trial into the Louisiana Conference, at the session held in Baton Rouge, January 6-I 1, 1886. His first appointment was Car-rollton Avenue and Parker’s Chapel, New Orleans, which he served for 1886 and 1887. He was then transferred to the Los Angeles Conference and was stationed for one year at Santa Ana, California. He then transferred to the West Texas Conference where he served Trinity Church, El Paso, in 1889. At the Conference that fall, he returned to Louisiana. He then served successively: New Iberia, 1890-1893; Dryades Street, New Or-leans, 1894-1896; Lake Providence, 1897-1898; Jackson, 1899; Presiding Elder, Baton Rouge District, 1900-1901, and Crowley, 1902, 1903. At that time, he was made Assistant Secretary of the Epworth League Board at Nashville, where he lived and worked until the end of his life. in addi-tion to his pastoral duties in Louisiana, he was secretary of the Louisiana Conference from 1900, when he succeeded Dr. John T. Sawyer, to 1920— a period of twenty years.
In 1901, Dr. Parker was married to Miss Lucy Irwin Paxtan of Vicksburg, Miss. To them were born two sons, Fitzgerald S. Jr., who is an attorney and a trust officer in a Nashville bank, and William Paxton, a practicing physician in the city of Nashville. Both sons with their mother survive Dr. Parker, and all reside in Nashville.
The preeminent and outstanding work of Dr. Parker was unquestion-ably his leadership of the young people of the Church through the Epworth League, and when he took up his duties as Assistant Secretary in 1903, he entered upon what was destined to be his largest sphere of usefulness and his most fruitful field of labor. The Epworth League was organized under the leadership of Dr. S. A. Steel, as General Secretary during the years from 1894 to 1898. At the end of that period, Dr. Steel was succeeded by Dr. Horace M. DuBose. When Dr. Parker became associated with Dr. DuBose, in the administration of the office and as editor of the Epworth Era, there were 3,283 organized chapters of the League, with a total membership of 116,579, and $2,197.40 had been collected on the ten per cent levied for the support of the work. Dr. Parker began at once the task of creating a supplemental literature tar League use—Culture Courses, Reading Courses, and a Junior Topics Quarterly.
At the end of seven years as Assistant, he was made General Secretary in 1910, when Dr. DuBose voluntarily retired. He held that position until the Epworth League was merged in the unified program of the General Board of Christian Education set up in 1930. In 19 10, when Dr. Parker became General Secretary, there were 4,067 chapters of the Epworth League, and .145,09 I members. The financial exhibit showed $26,575.85 raised for Missions, and $81,270.01 raised for other objects. When the work was merged, the report for 1930 showed 9,338 chapters; 259,182 members; $99,798.85 raised for Missions; $19,330 raised on Anniversary Day, and $292,318.87 raised for other objects. The number of Epworth League chapters had been practically trebled, the membership more than doubled, and its whole financial structure had been evolved under his guidance.
In addition to the effective administration of the office and of the League’s financial program, he organized and directed General Assemblies at Lake Junaluska and at Mt. Sequoyah, and he promoted and gave direction to summer assemblies in thirty-nine Annual Conferences of the Church. Bishop Paul Kern said truly: “Ha made the modern Young People’s move-ment in our Church.” All in all, it is likely that no single individual ever made a greater contribution to the life of the Church than was made by Dr. Parker through the Epworth League, and his labors in that field will long be regarded as a romance of ceaseless toil and uncalculating devotion.
After the educational work of the Church had been unified, Dr. Parker served as Editorial Writer for the Board of Education from 1930 to 1934, and as Editorial Writer for the Book Editor’s office from 1934 to the time of his death. He was delegate to the General Conferences of 1906 and 1914. He was a member of the Board of Missions from 1906 until 1930; he served for a long while as a member of the Executive Committee of the Hoard of Missions, and for a number of years he was a member of the Committee to pass upon missionary candidates. He also spent some months in the Orient as the representative of the Board of Missions.
One other labor of Dr. Parker was his contribution to the hymnody the Church. In this he probably rendered his second notable service to the life and worship of the Church. He was a member of the Joint Commission composed of twenty-two ministers and laymen who arranged and brought out the first joint Hymnal for American Methodism in 1 90~, and his last work was as a member of the Joint Commission which issued the Hymnal of 1935. In that connection, Dr. John W. Langdale, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, said of him: “He was easily the most spiritual member of the Joint Hymnal Commission . . . . The most beautiful personality on the Commission . . . . To have come to know him, is one of the rich rewards of the hymnal association.” The fact that his labors in connection with the hymnody and worship of Methodism, which included his able study, “The Practice and Experience of Christian Worship.” the Quillian Lectures of Emory University for 1929, was one of his great contributions, can scarcely be questioned. His work in that field represents the ripeness of his Christian experience and the best that there was in his temperament, his culture, and his training. Through his con-tributions to the hymnology of the Church through his leadership of the Young People of the Church, and through his conscientious and godly judgment in choosing the representatives of the Church on foreign fields, his influence has been felt around the world.

It remains now to speak briefly of Dr. Parker’s personality as a whole—the totality of his impress upon the Church of his time. His scholarly attainments, his deep spirituality, his great wisdom and unfeigned brotherliness together constitute a heritage, which we can well afford to regard as a sacred treasure. A friend said of him: “He was to me the embodiment of a Christian gentleman.” To another, there was about his “presence an atmosphere of gentility and purity.” Another said: “I know of no nobler Christian,” he was a man whose presence was always an i-aspiration and whose devotion to Christ was no less ardent than it was intelligent.” One who had been his pastor declared: “His presence was a great inspiration to me. He possessed a gentleness coupled with great courage, a keen intellect chastened and controlled by accurate knowledge and ripe scholarship. I never felt worthy of the friendship of so good and great a man, but shall cherish the memory of his love and friendship as one of the treasures which even death cannot wrest from me.”
Such were the tributes of those who knew Dr. Parker in the intimacies of his great and varied labors and who felt his heartthrob in personal fellowship. Today, as his lifelong friends and as having been laborers together with God, we confess his noble service to the Church, and we humbly bow to the will of God in his finished task. We say not, “goodbye,” for he continues to live in the fruit of his labors, and we think of his gentle and tender spirit as lingering upon the horizon of life and as being still in calling distance of our bereaved hearts. How better may we take leave of our fallen but victorious comrade than in the words of his devoted friend: “We hail his going as his deliverance from pain, and his coronation by the King. How his music-loving soul must revel today in the harmonies of the paradise of God.”

Source: Journal of the Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Pages 87-91, 1936, by W. L. Duren