Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Wendell 'Billy' Parker 1926-2014; Educator, Coach Had a Knack for Young People 'He Just Knew Kids,' Wife Says of Star Athlete and School Board Member

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Wendell 'Billy' Parker 1926-2014; Educator, Coach Had a Knack for Young People 'He Just Knew Kids,' Wife Says of Star Athlete and School Board Member

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland

Wendell "Billy" Parker, a former University of Florida quarterback who spent 20 years on the Duval County School Board and 30 years as an educator, died Wednesday. He was 88.

Mr. Parker was elected to the board in 1980, twice served as chairman and was the senior member when he was forced off by term limits in 2000. During his tenure, he worked to abolish sixth- and seventh-grade centers, end forced busing, return children to neighborhood schools, authorize the use of metal detectors to help keep out guns and get schools built where needed.

"We had all this territory along Butler Boulevard between Jacksonville Beach and the Southside," he said in a 2000 Times-Union interview. "We needed schools where people live. We fought and fought to get those schools built and finally succeeded."

As an educator, he served as a teacher, athletic coach, principal, director of secondary schools and assistant superintendent. Indeed, Mr. Parker almost became superintendent himself. In 1974, he was one vote away from the top job, but the School Board went with John Gunning.

"Billy was an uncommon leader," said Stan Jordan, who served with him on the board and knew Mr. Parker since 1952. "He had that unique skill of getting things done and having others think it was their idea."

Mr. Parker was born in St. Cloud, Fla., in 1925 and moved to Jacksonville in 1930. He attended Robert E. Lee High School, where he was an All-State and All-Southern quarterback and captained the football and basketball teams. During World War II, he was in the Army Air Corps. After the war, he attended Florida on a football scholarship. As quarterback of the Gators in 1946, he set a record for most passes completed - 13 - to a single receiver. It remained unsurpassed until a quarterback named Steve Spurrier came along.

Jordan said Mr. Parker touched many students' lives. He was a teacher and coach at Landon and Lee high schools before going to Andrew Jackson High as a coach in 1952.

'UNUSUAL RAPPORT'

"He loved education," said Jordan, who met Mr. …

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