Warren Parker, 79, president of hauling, construction firm

April 06, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Warren W. Parker, president and chief executive officer of one of Maryland's oldest and most successful minority-owned businesses, died of cancer Tuesday at Union Memorial Hospital. The longtime Morgan Park resident was 79.

Mr. Parker was the third-generation leader of family-owned J. William Parker & Son, started a century ago when his grandfather, Charles T. Parker, bought a mule and two-wheel wagon to haul debris from the city's Great Fire.

Parker & Son has since grown into a multimillion-dollar business in hauling, and construction and engineering services. Along with a cement business, Concrete Transport Inc., that Mr. Parker started in 1980, it has worked on numerous area projects including the Fort McHenry Tunnel, Harbor Court Hotel, Kernan Hospital, M&T Bank Stadium and expansions at University of Maryland Medical Center.

Of them all, the tunnel was Mr. Parker's favorite, said Arnold M. Jolivet, a close friend and president of the American Minority Contractors and Businesses Association who worked with him for more than 20 years.

"You had to pour concrete 24 hours a day on that job, so he would get up early in the morning, go to work, and bring his portable phone home and take it to bed with him," Mr. Jolivet said. "Whenever they needed him, they would call, and he would really direct the project from his bed. ... That was the largest contract that ever went to a minority firm in the history of Maryland. All of the concrete in there was his concrete."

Born and raised in Southwest Baltimore's Mount Winans neighborhood, Mr. Parker graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1941 and attended the Cortez Peters Business School before being drafted into the Army in 1943.

During World War II, he served in Europe in a truck battalion of the 3rd Army under Gen. George S. Patton and attained the rank of master sergeant.

After the war, he joined his father, John William Parker, in the company and worked by his side until his father's death in 1991 at age 90.

"He loved and cherished the business because he was born into it and it was his family's heritage," Mr. Jolivet said of his friend. "Very few African-American families can claim such a rich and successful heritage in business and commerce."

Mr. Parker was president of the company for more than a quarter-century as it grew and diversified into other aspects of construction and engineering services. He also found success in the reuse of power plants' fly ash byproduct that Parker & Son would haul away.

He established Concrete Transport, a ready-mix concrete company that he sold in 1997. Many area streets and highways were constructed with the company's cement.

Mr. Parker actively ran the company until six months ago.

He contributed to several charitable causes, and enjoyed providing scholarships and educational opportunities for promising youngsters.

He was active in local business trade associations and civic and political groups and held longtime memberships in the Maryland Minority Contractors' Association and Morgan Park Community Association. He was the first inductee of the Maryland Minority Contractors' Hall of Fame in 1996.

Mr. Parker maintained membership at Mount Winans United Methodist Church, while in recent years he attended Northwood Appold United Methodist Church, where services were held yesterday.

An avid swimmer, Mr. Parker enjoyed vacationing on Kent Island and in Cape May, N.J., with his wife of 46 years and sole immediate survivor, the former Anna L. Evans.

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