What brought you to Fort Wayne?
My father suggested Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne in the 1950s and ’60s was a real going place. Look magazine had named it America’s Happiest City. My wife Pat and I picked Fort Wayne.
Why did you stay?
Fort Wayne had a great downtown, everybody was employed, there were great schools. They even walked with a swagger.
Let’s talk about “swagger.” You’ve said Fort Wayne needs to get its “swagger” back. What do you mean by that?
I’m hoping we can recreate a lot of the things that existed back in the ’50s and ’60s — full employment, (strong) schools and universities. We’re better organized than we ever have been. We have a lot of cooperation (with) the various economic development agencies. We’re putting a lot of really good pieces (together).
Why does history appeal to you?
The real history of Fort Wayne goes way back and is much more substantial than Indianapolis or other places. George Washington saw (the river portages between the Maumee and the Wabash rivers) as the opening to the Midwest.
If you could change one thing about Fort Wayne, what would it be?
We have a lot of very wonderful colleges here, (but) I’d like to have a real, world-class university here. The one thing I envy about South Bend is (that it has) a world-class university in Notre Dame. It makes a lot of difference to a community.
The Journal Gazette named you a “connector” in 2011. What does that mean to you?
I don’t know. I’ve been involved in a number of different types of things. What’s the old saying? I’m a “Jack of all trades and master of none.” I’m still looking around to find my niche.
Who inspires you?
My father, Crawford Parker. He was one of 10 kids and grew up in a very poor middle-class family. They all managed to get some college. He worked in a grocery store and then went into politics. He was secretary of state and lieutenant governor and ran for governor in the 1960s and lost by a very small percentage. He taught me perseverance and preparation. Try to work harder than the next guy and be prepared.
Talk about the Coliseum and its impact on you.
It’s a historical building that has been revamped and remodeled. You can name almost anybody — Bob Hope, Elvis, Elton John — and they’ve been there. The only real regret I have is that we weren’t able to retain the Pistons. We’d have been the Green Bay of the NBA.
What are the keys to attracting new business to the community?
Education and workforce development. No longer can people get out of high school and expect to get a really good job. You’ve got to have a certificate or a degree. It goes back to (having a) world-class university.
You’re a member of the DePauw University Athletic Hall of Fame. What were your athletic claims to fame?
Two sports: basketball and track.
What’s your secret talent?
You’ve been involved with athletics throughout your life, with the Lifetime Sports Academy and the Fort Wayne Sports Corps. Why are athletics important to you?
There’s a lot to be gained from participation. At DePauw, there was no special treatment for athletes. You had to learn to make the best use of your time. There is a value in team sports, there’s a value in individual sports, such as cooperation, winning and losing. You’ve got to do it on your own and with a team.
Do you still participate in athletics?
I’m a skier. And tennis and golf.
Where do you see our professional sports teams heading in the future?
Ultimately you have to have a good team to develop a good following. Look at the Komets. They’ve been here 60 years. The Fury had some good years and some not so good. The Mad Ants, I think they’re doing a good job. It’s tough to maintain.
You’ve talked about Fort Wayne’s “Act Four.” What does that entail?
The economy in Fort Wayne has developed in three acts. First was the canal, then it was the railroad, then the third act was manufacturing that sustained the whole economy. Now with International Harvester leaving and GE shutting down, we’re looking for Act Four. I think the medical (industry) and education may be our Act Four. We’re on the quest for Act Four. How do we get into that knowledge-based economy?
You’ve retired from your law practice, but you still serve on several boards. Do you ever envision yourself stepping down from public life?
As long as my health holds, I don’t think so. As long as I’m around to do what I can for our family and our city, I will.
If you had one super power, what would it be?
Being able to create meaningful jobs for everybody in our area. I’d like to see our swagger back.
What makes you see red?
As a lawyer, you’ve got to say injustice. People beaten down by the system. Older people being taken advantage of by fraud. It’s sad to see so many people not able to be employed.
What’s your favorite memory?
I had a motorcycle trip in Europe with a friend. I was a student, and I bought a $30 motorcycle, which tells you how good it was. It was a (Royal Air Force) cycle from the war, and we rode it down through France and Spain during Gen. Franco’s reign. We were robbed in France! The cycle broke down. We had a lot of real adventures.
What actor would play you in “The Mac Parker Story”?
What’s that actor’s name? Jack Palance. But he could do one-handed pushups. I can’t do that!