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Fess Elisha Parker, Jr. Passes Away

Today in Masonic history Fess Elisha Parker, Jr. passes away in 2010.

Fess Elisha Parker, Jr. was an American actor.

Parker was born on August 16th, 1924 in Fort Worth Texas. He enlisted in the United States Navy during the late part of World War II. He was hoping to become a pilot. Parker was 6 feet and 6 inches which caused the navy to turn him down as pilot. He went on to try to be a radioman gunner, and again his height prevented him from gaining the duty. He transferred to the United States Marines and was sent to the South Pacific shortly before the end of the war.

After being discharged from the Navy in 1946, Parker used his G.I. Bill to first attend Hardin-Simmons University. While attending the University he was involved in a car accident, the other driver stabbed Parker in the neck. After the accident, in 1947, he transferred to the University of Texas as a history major. He also became active in drama. He graduated from the University of Texas in 1950. He had one year left on his G.I. Bill and attended the University of Southern California where he studied for a Master's Degree in theatre history.

In the summer of 1951, Parker began his acting career. He first appeared as an extra in the play Mister Roberts. He went on to work with Warner Brothers Studios for a time, appearing in various roles until 1954. In 1954 he appeared in the science fiction movie Them!, it was about giant insects. His role was small, he played a pilot who was locked up in an asylum when no one believed him his plane was brought down by a giant insect. The star of the film was James Arness, who went on to appear in the show Gunsmoke.

At the same time Them! was appearing in theaters, Walt Disney Studios was looking for someone to play the lead in a three episode television show, now called a mini-series, about Davy Crockett. James Arness was the primary candidate for the role until they saw Parker in his role in Them!. Parker played a character who was convinced of what he saw no matter what the authorities had to say. This level of conviction was just what the studio wanted for the role of Davy Crockett.

After the Davy Crockett series, Parker became very dissatisfied with the roles Disney was offering him. The studio wanted to type cast him in roles similar to the Davy Crockett character to protect the brand they had established with Parker. He left Disney and made a variety of movies and television shows.

In 1964, Parker began working on the show Daniel Boone, another frontiersman. The series ran from 1964 to 1970. It was one of the highest rated shows of it's time. Several of it's most popular episodes were directed by Parker himself.

In 1974, at the age of 49, Parker retired from acting. He opened a Winery at his Vineyards in Los Olivos, California. The winery can be seen, under another name, in the movie Sideways. Parker himself is not in the film.

Parker passed away from natural causes on March 18th, 2010.

Parker was a member of Mount Olive Lodge No. 506 in Los Angeles, California.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.