Billy lived in the heart of Riverview, the son of Louise and George Parker. Brother Pete and sister Ansley rounded out the family. He grew up during the blessed days that kids actually went outside to play, explore and invent games - all day long - finally coming home when the streetlights came on. Along with Bob Huffaker, Peter Paul Stewart, Phil Whitaker and Freddy Lupton, Billy loved roaming Riverview. The abandoned Lyndhurst mansion (home of Elizabeth and John T. Lupton) held a magical appeal for the kids of Riverview … as did the golf course, the riverbank and various drainage ditches.
Billy’s friendships grew as he attended McCallie School. Going to the University of Tennessee, he found his soul mate. College sweetheart Margaret Moore was the perfect person mate for Billy. They were a part of a large group of Alpha Omega Phi sorority and Phi Delta Theta fraternity members that remained close friends for over 60 years, all traveling together to UT ballgames and taking annual trips to the beach.
My husband, Tom, and I met Billy and Margaret when we moved across the street from them on Crestwood Drive in 1965. The Crestwood gang included Judy and Charlie Milam, Sally and Cliff Betts, Bunny and Bill Clift, Betty Sue and Pat Kelly, Polly and David Moore, Butch and Olan Mills and Susan and Boyd Cobb. Our girls were 6 and 4, and Laurie, my oldest, thought Billy and Margaret were the most glamorous people she had ever seen - so young and carefree in their tennis whites and red convertible!
When their daughter, Lucia, was born, that beautiful little blond bundle of joy certainly changed their lives. She was the apple of Billy’s eye, and Margaret was a fun, doting mother to her little girl. All the Bright School girls loved to spend the night with Lucia; Margaret stayed up all night reading books to homesick little girls more than once.
After graduation from UT’s journalism school in 1960, Billy first took a job as a reporter for the Chattanooga Times. He later worked with a local advertising firm and took a position as director of communications for Tennessee Valley Public Power Association. In 1987, he co-founded Mountain City Publishing Co., which publishes both the Lookout Mountain Mirror and the Signal Mountain Mirror.
In midlife Billy’s artistic side became a passion. Starting out doing pen and ink drawings of houses, he soon found himself with many commissions for portraits of friends’ homes. Those were framed or used on notepaper. He soon began selling his prints of historical homes and buildings.
In watercolor, Billy found his true medium. His work is colorful, whimsical and delightful. He has had numerous art shows, selling out of his coveted works.
A brush with death and a battle with lung cancer served as a catalyst to sharpen the artistic nature in this budding talent. Billy told his friend Roy Exum, “As I was going through treatments, I would escape, spending the day at the lake cabin painting away the demons. I think that experience helped me confirm how deeply I love to paint, but it also helped me find the beauty in what was a dark time in my life. It gave me the passion I was seeking.”
In 2009, Billy published a book of many of his paintings. Entitled “Painting Along the Way,” this Southern scrapbook is filled with memories of the golden moments in his life. The book takes a journey from the Deep South - Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida, as well as Tennessee. Many of the early paintings are from memories of summers spent as a young boy in south Georgia. His grandfather owned a small grocery store, which is a recurring theme in his art.
Later, Billy traveled to the Caribbean, and his paintings became especially vivid, depicting the spirit of the islands. He also finished a series of works based in Europe, with London and Paris especially represented.
Billy’s next project was an impressive book on the history of a true Southern phenomenon: Coca-Cola. “An Empire Divided: Atlanta and Chattanooga Family Dynasties from the Early Days of Coca-Cola” was created after months of research in the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University and the Atlanta History Center. Billy also conducted many personal interviews with people of interest. The book takes a candid look at the Atlanta invention of the soda fountain drink made with a secret syrup and carbonated water, and the Chattanooga group that wanted to bottle the concoction and sell it worldwide. Those were the facets of the empire that had to be divided.
The book is a treasure trove of family pictures and memorabilia from these times. Many of Billy’s watercolor paintings are featured in the book, showing early Coca-Cola advertisements throughout the South. It is a very informative book of great interest in this part of the country.
William Parker was definitely a character! He leaves behind a plethora of funny stories, as well as so very many works of art that are treasured additions to so many homes and families. But his pride and joy was his family: college sweetheart and wife Margaret, daughter Lucia and her family, husband Tommy Hopper and children Sarah Margaret and Thomas.
Like his paintings, Billy’s life was colorful and happy!
by Judy Rowland