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Profiles from the Archives: William F. Parker

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

William Franklin Parker was born on July 30, 1897, in Wayne County, N.C., to John William and Rosa E. Parker. By 1910, the Parker family was living on a farm in Brogden, N.C., where they rented a home and William Parker was working as a farm laborer by the age of 12.

On May 1, 1917, William Parker enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the U.S. Naval Recruiting Station in Raleigh, N.C., as an Apprentice Seaman to serve in World War I. Parker was sent to Norfolk, Virginia, where he was stationed until May 30, 1917. On the same day, he was assigned to the USS Utah (BB-31), a Florida-class of dreadnought battleships. At the time Parker was aboard the ship, the USS Utah was serving around the Chesapeake Bay as an engineering and gunnery training ship.

From June 15 through July 7, 1917, Parker was in hospital at Norfolk, Virginia. By this time, he had reached the rank of fireman third class. On July 7, 1917, he returned to the USS Utah, and reached the rank of fireman second class. On August 10, 1917, Parker was transferred to the USS Kentucky (BB-6), a Kearsarge-class pre-dreadnought battleship used during this period as a training ship, where he reached the rank of fireman first class. On September 21, 1917, William Parker was sent to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to serve on a receiving ship, and by now had become an engineman second class. On October 2, 1917, Parker was assigned to his longest-tenured station ship aboard the battleship USS Indiana (BB-1).

William Parker remained aboard the USS Indiana until July 26, 1918, when he was transferred to a receiving ship in New York on August 8, 1918. On that day, Parker was assigned to his last ship, the USS Kermanshah, an Austro-Hungarian cargo ship that had sought refuge in the New York City harbor at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. In 1917, the U.S. government confiscated the cargo ship, and converted it to a military cargo ship that made trips to Europe with American military supplies in 1918. After the Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918, Parker was transferred to inactive service, and was honorably discharged on November 3, 1919, at Hampton Roads, Virginia, with the rank of engineman second class.

After the war, William Parker would marry Frances Elizabeth Paschal on March 31, 1926, in Guilford County, N.C. By 1930, the Parkers had come to live in Greensboro, N.C., and William was working as a mail carrier for the Greensboro U.S. Postal Service. Later in life, Parker transferred to working for the McLeansville, N.C., U.S. Post Office as a mail carrier, and retired from that position on October 31, 1956. The Parkers retired to the town of Shallotte in Brunswick County, N.C., prior to 1960. William F. Parker died on August 6, 1960, in Wilmington, N.C., from injuries he sustained in an automobile accident. He was buried in Guilford Memorial Park in Greensboro, N.C.

You can read William Parker's original WWI Navy pocket diary from his time aboard the USS Indiana online through the WWI collection of the North Carolina Digital Collections, a joint effort of the State Archives of North Carolina and the State Library of North Carolina.

To learn more about William Parker’s WWI service, check out the William F. Parker Papers (WWI 54) in the WWI Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of N.C. in Raleigh, N.C.

This blog post is part of the State Archives of N.C.’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of N.C.

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of N.C. will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of N.C., and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.