Sonny Parker family chosen as Pioneer Family 2013
In recognition of their significant contributions to Boone County in the fields of public service, agriculture, industry and education, the Sonny Parker Family will be honored at North Arkansas College’s Commencement Exercises as the 2013 Boone County Pioneer Family of the Year. Matt Miller, chairman of the North Arkansas College Board of Trustees, will present the award. The College’s Commencement Exercises are scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 11th at 10:00 AM in Pioneer Pavilion on the south campus of North Arkansas College.
Virgil Parker was a farmer first, as were all of his siblings. He was the Boone County Tax Assessor from 1931-1934, and later worked for the Welfare Department as a caseworker. Virgil was the County Treasurer at the time of his death in 1947.
Naomi Parker was a wife and mother of three – Mildred Ruth, Virginia Lee, and Sonny – with only an 8th grade education when Virgil passed away. She was appointed by Arkansas Governor Benjamin Travis Laney to finish out Virgil’s term as County Treasurer. After serving that term, she then served as County Clerk from 1949 to 1952 and Revenue Inspector from 1953-1955. Naomi owned and operated the Credit Bureau of Harrison from 1955-1971. She was elected in 1971 as Boone County Circuit Clerk and served in that capacity until her retirement in 1980. Naomi Parker held the distinction of being the first person to hold three different county offices in Boone County. She passed away in 1993.
Sonny (James Ray) Parker is the son of Virgil and Naomi Parker. He and his wife Kathy of Green Forest married in 1961 and moved to Dallas, Texas in 1964. Sonny served in the Army Reserves in 1962 & 1963 and worked in a machine shop in Dallas. Kathy worked for Morton Foods as secretary to the President. They returned to Harrison in the 1970’s and established a carpet cleaning business called Parker Steam Cleaner for Carpets.
They also established a western retail store called Western World before selling it and establishing Parker Enterprises, which includes a manufacturing arm, and they have owned and operated it continually since 1980.
Sonny Parker began riding horses at an early age and often competed in rodeos as a calf roper and steer wrestler. He saw an opportunity to create products that would be safer and easier to use than those available on the marketplace at the time. Parker Enterprises is known for creating quality horse tack and equipment, and Sonny has invented several horse tack items that are sold and branded with his “SP” trademark.
Aside from tack-related inventions, Sonny has also invented a harness system for handicapped persons and their caretakers. The harness enables a caretaker to move a handicapped person with great ease. Sonny says of this invention, “a 9 year old boy can move a 250 pound man with this harness”. Sonny has made several of these harnesses over the years and will not take payment for any of them, instead donating them to the handicapped person who needs it.
Parker Enterprises has made equipment bags and tack for the Miss Rodeo America organization each year for the past 33 years, and ships products all across the United States and to eight foreign countries. In 2009, Parker Enterprises was selected Best of Local Business Award in Equestrian Equipment category by the U.S. Commerce Association. This award program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country that have achieved exceptional marketing success and enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community. Sonny says of his business, “We never wanted to be the biggest, we just wanted to be the best.”
Sonny and Kathy’s son Jay Parker has continued the Parker family tradition of achievement. Jay has been involved in the cattle industry since he was very young, and was a rodeo champion in his youth. In 1989, Jay won the AJQHA World Title in Roping in Tulsa, Oklahoma and went to college at University of Tennessee on a rodeo scholarship. He was selected to compete in the college national finals rodeo each year during his college career. Jay worked with his father at Parker Enterprises, and eventually helped to create the retail store Choice of Champions Saddle and Tack, which sells tack and bags manufactured by Parker Enterprises.
Jay Parker worked for Sheridan Garrison as manager of his ranch until going back to school to pursue his teaching degree. His first teaching job was at Deer High School, where he taught agriculture. He eventually moved on to Bruno/Pyatt where he continued to teach agriculture, and was elected to the National Teachers Honor Roll for 2005-06. Jay was then hired by the Harrison School District to head up their Agriculture Department. While at this position, he finished his Master’s Degree. In 2010, Jay was offered the job of assistant principal at Harrison High School, and is now employed in that position. Jay's wife Karla is a physical therapist at Bristol Pointe Health Care and Rehabilitation. They have two children: Brylie, age 12 and Jackson, age 8.