When historians investigate the history of an American city, it is customary to find a few names of people who made a difference. Names that keep cropping up.
Mac Parker has made the task easier for researchers studying our city with his recent autobiography, “Landing in the Right Place: Building Family, Career & Community in Fort Wayne.”
Much of the book involves his formative years – and remarkable years they were.
Born and raised in a small town in Indiana during the Great Depression and then World War II, he had a variety of jobs, including paperboy, farm hand and helper at the family grocery store. He showed athletic ability in several sports, and became well known for basketball, especially after the family moved to New Castle and Mac joined the high school team there.
He attended DePauw University in Greencastle, where he participated in varsity sports, pursued his degree and also pursued his future wife, Pat Opie. During his junior year, he was awarded a scholarship to study abroad and spent a year at University College in Southampton, England. It just so happened that Pat was spending the same year studying abroad in Sweden.
After being accepted for law school at Harvard and Princeton, he chose the University of Michigan and, in 1952, he and Pat were married. The military draft was still in effect at that time, but a deferment was allowed for those finishing their schooling. When that finished, qualified men would either enlist or be drafted. Upon graduation, Mac enlisted in the Navy and entered Officer Training School. His commitment included three years of active duty, followed by five years in the reserves. He and Pat set up housekeeping in Washington, D.C.
On leaving active duty, Mac and Pat had to decide where to live. Mac's father, Crawford Parker, was prominent in Indiana politics and was serving in Indianapolis as lieutenant governor, but Mac wanted to be in private legal practice and to be in a city where he would not be “riding along on Dad's coattails.” He and Pat chose Fort Wayne. After some interviews with law firms, he accepted a position as an associate with Campbell, Livingston, Dildine & Haynie.
Most lawyers will tell you that you go to law school “to learn how to think,” then spend the first two years in practice learning how to actually be a lawyer. After 10 years with the Campbell firm, Mac had not only learned how to be a lawyer; he had become a prominent and well-respected member of the Fort Wayne legal community, with an established number of personal clients. He and fellow attorney Robert Hoover decided to begin their own firm, Parker and Hoover.
He had already established a reputation as someone who promoted Fort Wayne, doing things to make it grow and prosper. Over time, this became a hallmark for him, and he served at various times as head of the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club and as a member of several other community organizations. He has been instrumental in the success of the Memorial Coliseum, a driving force in the renovation of The Landing and a leader in many philanthropic activities.
The book contains anecdotes about Mac's law practice over the next several years, as well as descriptions of the many Fort Wayne friendships he and Pat developed. Pat was also prominent in Fort Wayne community affairs, including being a founding member of the McMillen Health Center, president of Junior League, and a founding member of the committee that has become Fort Wayne Sister Cities International.
Finally, of course, there is much about family. Mac and Pat are blessed with three daughters and several grandchildren. They have been world travelers, and personal friends with fascinating people, including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
In sum, though, Mac's book is a series of snapshots of a Hoosier coming through the tumultuous'30s and'40s, serving his country, following his profession – and making his adopted hometown a better place to live.
Howard Chapman, a longtime friend of Mac Parker, is a retired Fort Wayne attorney.
"Landing in the Right Place: Building Family, Career & Community in Fort Wayne" by Mac Parker (Independently published) 119 pages (paperback) $7.80
Available on amazon.com or at the History Center