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W. Dale Parker Papers

 Collection
Identifier: Ms-1989-093

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the papers of William Dale Parker (1925-2007), management specialist on NASA's Project Gemini from 1964 to 1969; engineer with General Motors and General Dynamics; writer; businessman; and self-described political advisor, expert on human relations, and genius. The collection includes such materials as correspondence, memorabilia, printed materials, photographs, and scrapbooks.

Contained within the collection is very little about Parker's work on Gemini, the focus instead being largely on documenting Parker's personal life and his other interests: writing and lecturing, volunteer/humanitarian activities, politics, and business. Parker was meticulous about collecting the minutiae relating to all his personal life and chronicling all of his activities in photographs, memoirs, and scrapbooks.

The collection also includes a series of materials relating to the life and career of his youngest daugher, Jacquelyn S. "Jackie" Parker, holder of a number of firsts for women in aviation, including the first female graduate of the U. S. Air Force Test Pilot School. Also included is a series of correspondence from Parker's pen pals residing in former Soviet states soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Dates

  • 1914 - 2006

Creator

Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials. Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: http://bit.ly/scuareproduction. Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: http://bit.ly/scuapublication. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives (specref@vt.edu or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

William Dale Parker, son of Otis and Eva Dempsey Parker, was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, on April 13, 1925. After graduating from Portsmouth’s Churchland High School, Parker joined the U. S. Coast Guard, serving for 16 months before apparently receiving a medical discharge in July, 1944. He entered the College of William & Mary the following spring; transcripts indicate that he failed out of the college. Parker later took a handful of courses at Goldey Beacom College, University of Delaware, and California Western University; following ten years of coursework, he graduated from the industrial engineering program of International Correspondence Schools in 1956. (His 1968 doctorate was an honorary degree, awarded by James Balmes University, Saltillo, Mexico.)

Parker married Frances Ross Jennings on February 2, 1946; the couple would have five daughters. The Parkers took up residence at the Naval Proving Grounds (Dahlgren, Virginia) where Dale Parker worked as a draftsman and later claimed to have designed the first rocket launcher used in the United States. During this time, Parker also taught courses in draftsmanship, started a base newspaper, and performed private drafting work.

From about 1950 to 1961, Parker worked at the Wilmington, Delaware, plant of General Motors, serving as a plant engineer and later as an assistant director of salaried personnel, in charge of public relations and counseling. During this time, he incorporated Multiple Services, a small business that, according to Parker, “contracted to do anything legal.” From 1961 to 1964, he was a management specialist for General Dynamics - Astronautics in San Diego. He also traveled as a lecturer, specializing in human relations.

In 1964, Parker was hired by NASA, an agency in which his brother Otis already worked as an aerospace engineer. Dale Parker worked as a management specialist for Project Gemini in Houston from 1964 to 1967, and at Cape Kennedy from 1967 to 1969, taking credit for bringing Project Gemini from nine months behind schedule to nine months ahead of schedule within nine months. He seems to have retired in 1969. The previous September, Parker had married Beulah Lee “Boots” Farthing, following the death of his first wife.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Parker engaged in a number of other activities: working as a pro bono marriage counselor, as an official with various beauty pageants, as vice-president of Multiple Services, and in various capacities with several other small, short-lived business enterprises. Parker also devoted a great deal of time to volunteering with various civic organizations and charities and maintaining memberships in a number of fraternal and masonic organizations.

Parker self-published several books, including The Philosophy of Genius (1971), Gutless America (1973), and Your Own Personal Angel (1997). He also shared his many opinions through newspaper columns, frequent letters to the editor, and speeches.

Remaining politically active throughout his life, Parker contributed to both political parties and frequently wrote to politicians, offering advice, asking favors, or sharing his opinions. Though he seems not to have wielded the influence that he frequently claimed--referring to himself as a “presidential advisor” and “White House veteran”--he was in fact acquainted with a number of prominent politicians and had a knack for gaining their attention. In 1977, Parker mounted a short-lived independent gubernatorial campaign in Florida, and gained some media attention with his unconventional method of seeking a running mate through newspaper advertisements. In 1994, Parker self-published A Political Candidate’s Guide, claiming that it was the first book to offer advice on how to run a political campaign in the United States. He also shared his many political opinions through various venues, including a short-lived political newsletter that he faxed to multiple media outlets and politicians.

An entrepreneur of sorts, Parker made several ill-fated attempts in the manufacturing and marketing of various products, none seeming to have advanced farther than the developmental stage. Among these were the Amy Carter peanut doll, the space exploration and technology trivia board game, sports medallions, and gravesite-mounted photographic memorials.

By 1982, the Parkers had moved to Boone, North Carolina, though Dale Parker retained his status as a Florida resident for the remainder of his life. He died in Boone on July 8, 2007; Boots Parker, on December 22, 2008. Both were buried in Portlock Cemetery, Portsmouth, Virginia.

Extent

21.8 Cubic Feet (15 boxes)

Abstract

This collection consists of the papers of William Dale Parker, management specialist on NASA's Project Gemini, General Motors plant engineer; General Dynamics management specialist; writer; businessman; self-described political consultant, expert on human relations, and genius. It contains correspondence, memorabilia, photos, scrapbooks, and ephemera relating to Parker's life, career and interests, as well as the life and career of his youngest daughter, Jacquelyn Parker, the first female graduate of the U. S. Air Force Test Pilot School.

Arrangement

The W. Dale Parker Papers are arranged in the following series:

Series I. Biographical and Personal Papers, 1940-2006. This series contains materials documenting Parker's personal life. The series includes biographical source items, such as newspaper clippings, Who's Who listings, and an oral history. The series also includes such items as personal correspondence, personnel records, appointment calendars, legal and financial records, and certificates and awards. Arranged by material type.

Series II. Name and Subject Files, 1922-2006. Included in this series are files devoted to the various subjects in which Parker was interested, including many civic efforts in which he was personally involved, businesses for which he worked, and organizations in which he maintained a membership. Also included are name files for people he knew or with whom he exchanged correspondence. These files include correspondence, printed materials, and ephemera. The series includes files devoted to Parker's immediate family, with the exception of Jackie Parker, whose papers may be found in a separate series. Also not included here are politicians or persons affiliated with the space program, files for whom may be found in other series. Also among the files are collections of postcards addressed to the families of George W. Dutcher of Wilmington, Delaware; and Holiday Hoopes, of Landenberg, Pennsylvania. Parker's relationship--if any--to these families is unknown. This series is arranged alphabetically by name or topic.

Series III. Writings and Speeches, 1952-2005. This series holds the writings of Dale Parker, including several self-published books, newspaper columns and letters to the editor, newsletters, and unpublished essays on a variety of topics. Also included are drafts of speeches as well as recordings of speeches and radio appearances. Arranged by type, then alphabetically.

Series IV. Jacquelyn S. Parker Papers, 1967-2006. This series contains materials relating to Jacquelyn S. "Jackie" Parker, the first female graduate of the U. S. Air Force Test Pilot School. Contained in this series are biographical materials, personal correspondence, printed materials, and scrapbooks, including materials relating to the controversy surrounding her eventual retirement from military service. Arranged by material type.

Series V. Space Program, 1962-2006. This small series includes a handful of Project Gemini records generated during Parker's time at NASA. Also included is an oral history in which Parker discusses his time at NASA. The majority of the series consists of space program printed material, memorabilia, and ephemera. (Of particular interest among these, perhaps, is an autographed photo of astronaut Alan Bean.) The personal correspondence includes letters from Carl Sagan; astronaut Deke Slayton; and Martha Chaffee, widow of astronaut Roger Chaffee. The remainder of the series consists of materials relating to the Dale Parker Space Collection, now housed at the Boeing Museum of Flight. Arranged loosely by subject matter.

Series VI. Politics and Politicians, 1956-2006. This series contains both subject and name files relating to Parker's interest in politics. The majority of the series consists of files devoted to local, state, and federal elected officials. Many of these consist of nothing more than memorabilia, printed material, and form-printed letters, but a number of files--such as the Joe Biden folder--contain pieces of personal correspondence or other materials that establish a personal relationship between Parker and the subject. Some folders include correspondence from politicians' family members, advisors, and office staff; in other cases, these materials have been moved into separate folders under the individual names. (Personal correspondence of Rose Mary Woods, personal secretary of President Nixon, for example, is found within her own folder, not that of Nixon.) The collection also contains folders relating to Parker's Florida gubernatorial campaign and the Democratic and Republican parties. Completing the series is a small collection of political memorabilia. Names in this series are arranged alphabetically, followed by general political materials.

Series VII. Business Enterprises, 1945-2005. Parker's many attempts at entrepreneurship are chronicled in this series. Included are business plans, correspondence, and prototypes. Noteworthy within the series are the Amy Carter Peanut Doll, Pictorial Gravesite Creations, and the Space Exploration and Technology Trivia Game.

Series VIII. Pen Pals, 1993-2005. In 1993, Parker began correponding with a number of people living in former Soviet states. This series contains the letters written to Parker by his many pen pals. While some correspondents are represented by only a single letter, a few of the folders contain dozens of letters spanning several years. Many of the letters describe political, economic, and social conditions in the former Soviet states just after the Soviet Union's collapse. Predominant within the correspondence are letters from Belarus, though the series also contains letters from other countries. While most of the letters are written in English, some are written in Cyrrilic. Arranged alphabetically by correspondent name.

Series IX. Artifacts and Mementos, 1943-2005. Included within this eclectic assortment are fragments from a mastodon tusk, the floor of the Acropolis, and the Berlin Wall. The series also includes such disparate items as a racetrack slide rule handicapper; gag calling cards; a book of devotionals distributed to military personnel during World War II; autographed photos of Kaye Grable, Edie Adams, and Bill O'Reilly; and a William & Mary letter sweater.

Series X. Photographs, 1910-1998. This series contains Parker's personal photos of himself and friends, both in snapshots and studio portraits. Included among the photos are a number that were taken the night before the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter and include Amy Carter and Carter family staff and friends. The series is not arranged in any particular order. Loose photos have not been arranged in any particular order; photo albums have been disassembled but retain their original order and the albums arranged in chronological order.

Series XI. Scrapbooks, 1918-2004. An ardent scrapbooker, Parker documented his entire life in this medium, and in many ways the scrapbook series forms the crux of the collection. The scrapbooks chronicle all aspects of Parker's life through photographs, newspaper clippings and other printed material, correspondence, memorabilia, and ephemera. (ManyA number of items in other series within the collection had obviously once been in scrapbooks that Parker seems to have later disassembled.) The series is arranged chronologically.

Source of Acquisition

The W. Dale Parker Papers were donated to Special Collections in eight separate accessions, dated 2001 to 2006.

Related Archival Materials

The finding aid for the papers of Otis Jerome Parker, NASA aerospace engineer and brother of W. Dale Parker, may be found here.

Separated Materials

The following items were removed from the collection to be cataloged for the rare book collection:

  • Bergaust, Erik. Wernher von Braun. Washington: National Space Institute, 1976. (autographed)
  • "The Beautiful Caverns of Luray." Luray, VA: Lauck, [1942?]
  • Bobby: The Robert F. Kennedy story--the man and his dream. New York: Macfadden-Bartell, 1968.
  • Cann, William N. Coast to coast with the air mail: impressions of the first aeroplane trip of William N. Cann. Wilmington, DE: Cann Brothers & Kindig, 1930. (autographed)
  • Carter, Jimmy. Sharing Good Times.New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005. (autographed)
  • Conrad, Nancy and Howard A. Klausner. Rocket man: astronaut Pete Conrad's incredible ride to the moon and beyond (autographed by Nancy Conrad and astronaut Alan Dean)
  • Downs, Hugh. "The Resources of space." Arlington, VA: National Space Institute, [1976?]
  • "'The Founders': a drama of Jamestown. Williamsburg, VA: The Jamestown Corporation, [1957].
  • Hansen, James R. First man: the life of Neil A. Armstrong. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.
  • Miller, Marvin, comp. The Breaking of a president: some facts and findings surrounding the Watergate blunders of Richard M. Nixon, et al. vol. 1. [S.l.]: Therapy Productions, 1974.
  • NASA pocket statistics. Washington: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, [1992].
  • Onyx, Narda. Water, world and Weissmuller: Johnny Weissmuller's biography. Los Angeles: VION, 1964. (autographed by Weissmuller)
  • Szathmary, Louis. American gastronomy: an illustrated portfolio of recipes and culinary history. Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1974.
  • Worden, Alfred M. Hello Earth: greetings from Endeavour. Los Angeles: Nash, 1974. (autographed)

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the W. Dale Parker Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/cc0/).

Processing Information

Processing of the W. Dale Parker Papers commenced in June 2016 and was completed in May 2017.

Title
W. Dale Parker Papers, 1914-2006
Status
Completed
Author
John M. Jackson
Date
2017 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English

Revision Statements

  • 2020-09-04: Finding aid notes updated to new department standards. juliags
  • 2022-06-02: Added contents of Box 15; revised biographical note. jmj

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Contact:
Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US
540-231-6308