HE STOOD in the middle of the gym floor -- ramrod straight, clipboard in hand, whistle hanging from his neck.
He said nothing. He was watching the bleachers fill for the first-period class on the first day of school. It was September of 1955. He was young. He was black.
Integration had come to Baltimore public schools the previous year. Now the faculty at City College was following suit.
Suddenly the whistle blew and the murmuring that had built to a low roar came to an abrupt halt. All eyes riveted on the man in the middle of the gym floor. Only the creak of the antiquated bleachers shattered the silence.
Then came the voice: "My name is Eugene Parker, E-U-G-E-N-E P-A-R-K-E-R," he said in a low but stern voice. "You will address me as Mr. Parker. I will return the courtesy."
He then began calling the roll.
For 35 years, the last four as a substitute teacher, he touched the lives of more than 6,000 athletes and countless thousands of non-athletes. He had time for everyone. No one was ever turned away. He was accessible. He was popular.
There are coaches who are remembered only for the number of games they won and championships they collected. Parker's teams did both.
Parker will be remembered for more. As a teacher, he was a positive influence. As a friend, he was loyal.
Last week, the final roll call went out for Eugene Parker, E-U-G-E-N-E P-A-R-K-E-R. After a brief illness, he died.
Frank Lynch is a makeup editor for The Evening Sun. As a student, he was in those creaking bleachers 36 years ago.