Port Arthur leaders share memories, impacts following passing of Carl Parker

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, March 26, 2024

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Carl Parker wasn’t one to seek the shadows in his lengthy political career and he wasn’t above taking to theatrics to get the attention needed to make changes.

Parker, who died Friday at the age of 89, is being remembered for the impact he locally, regionally and beyond.

Dr. Sam Monroe, former president of Lamar State College Port Arthur and president of the Port Arthur Historical Society, said legislation put forth by Parker impacted the Port of Port Arthur, as well as LSCPA and Lamar State College Orange. Monroe said Parker supported Lamar University and helped secure funding for LU’s Montagne Center.

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Farther from home, Parker also co-sponsored legislation that benefited Angelo State University.

“Education was a primary focus of his,” Monroe said.

Parker is responsible for sponsoring or co-sponsoring upwards of 400 bills, and some believe this is the most achieved in Texas history. Monroe said Parker had a colorful way to introduce bills and grab attention. For instance, when introducing a bill aimed at child safety seat belts, Parker brought an alligator in a tub to a press conference ad went down a list of protections for the alligator.

He then went through the list of protections for children.

“They were minimal compared to an alligator,” Monroe said. “He caused quite a sensation.”

One of his bills helped Lamar College in Port Arthur when leaders sought to have authority to grant two-year degrees.

Parker introduced the bill three times before it was passed.

Then-Texas Governor Ann Richards signed the bill into law at Bob Bowers Civic Center during the Port Arthur News Homecoming Roast in the 1990s.

Monroe said Parker had a great sense of humor and was a great storyteller.

This, Monroe said, also came across during Parker’s days as an attorney.

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie was saddened to hear the news of Parker’s death and noted the two spoke earlier this month and had plans to talk again.

Their relationship goes back decades, to when the mayor was young and campaigned for Parker, placing cards on vehicles throughout neighborhoods, Bartie said.

In fact, Parker gave Bartie his first political motto — “fairness and common sense.”

Years before there were Golden Triangle Days in Austin, a biennial gathering of representatives of Jefferson and Orange counties, there was Port Arthur Day in Austin, which was the brainchild of Parker.

Bartie remembers singing the National Anthem on the floor of the House at the request of Parker.

But what made Parker effective was the personality God blessed him with, Bartie said. This was a time when politicians would sit and talk with constituents and deliver what they promised, he said.

State Rep. Christian Manuel expressed condolences on Parker’s passing on social media.

“There are no words to summarize who Senator Carl Parker is and was to me and to this state. What I will say is ever since I was an 8-year-old boy Senator Parker has always been MY GIANT,” Manuel said in his Facebook post. “A man who took time to talk to an 8-year-old about politics in a way he could understand. A man who lived and worked his entire life in the city and area he was reared in. A man who taught me the joys of politics. Who taught me as a child to stand up for what you believe, but to know how to work with others. I’m blessed to have known him.”

They City of Port Arthur also extended condolences on the passing of the former senator, saying Parker helped create many bills and legislative resolutions directly and indirectly impacting Port Arthur.

Parker was a civil service and legal city consultant for many years.

Carl Parker grew up on 15th Street in Port Arthur and served from 1962 to 1977 in the Texas House of Representatives and from 1977 to 1995 in the Senate. (Courtesy of Bart Bragg)


Parker was born in 1934 on 15th Street in Port Arthur and left home to live elsewhere twice: the first time when he attended law school at the University of Texas — he graduated in 1958 — and the second when he served four years in the U.S. Navy.

For more than three decades, he served in the legislature: from 1962 to 1977 in the House of Representatives and from 1977 to 1995 in the Senate. He was elected speaker pro tem and president pro tem of the Senate, the only lawmaker to hold both positions.

His accolades abound: He was chosen as Outstanding Senator by Lawmen’s Magazine and named among the Ten Best Legislators by Texas Monthly. He was chosen as one of two Americans at the International Education Roundtable at Oxford University. He’s been awarded the Arthur Stilwell Award for contributions to the city of Port Arthur and chosen for the Blackstone Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Jefferson County Bar Association.

He owned The Parker Law Firm in Port Arthur and Nederland.

He was inducted into the Museum of the Gulf Coast in February of 2019.

“Everyone likes to be remembered,” he told Port Arthur Newsmedia at the time.

What he accomplished will long be remembered. He wrote legislation to create the Port of Port Arthur. He wrote legislation to create Lamar State College Port Arthur, Lamar State College at Orange and passed a bill elevating the status of Lamar University.

He sponsored legislation conveying the title of Pleasure Island from the state to the city of Port Arthur, co-authored the Equal Legal Rights for Women and even wrote legislation to protect alligators.

The son of a Port Arthur mayor, he was elected to the legislature before he was 30 and, while there, became friends with some of the state’s most colorful characters.

One regret he previously said was missing out in a close race for House speaker. Billy Clayton of West Texas won a tight race, Parker recalled later, and may have promised several lawmakers that they would cast the deciding vote in his favor: seemingly a political plum.

Parker remained in Port Arthur after retiring from the Senate and handled a variety of legal cases, some as small as misdemeanors and as large as capital murder.

He represented foreign countries and even the city of Port Arthur, where he handled, among other things, arbitration cases. He said he never lost an arbitration case.


According to his obituary, Parker is survived by his wife, Dr. Beverly Parker; his daughters, Valerie Hintzen (Erich) and Chris Parker (Elena Labrador); his son, Allen Parker (Andrea); his grandchildren Andrew Hintzen, Emma Hintzen (Michael Martinez-Silva), Peyton Garrett (Jace), and Tripp Parker; and his sister, Karen Parker Trees (Bob).

Visitation will be held at 1 p.m., with a funeral following at 3 p.m. April 2 at Calder Baptist Church in Beaumont.

Graveside Services will be conducted at 1 p.m. April 3 at the Texas State Cemetery, located at 909 Navasota St. in Austin.