1 January 1868 – 27 June 1936
Grand Chairman, Pullman Porters Benefit Association of America
Perry Parker began working for the Pullman company as a porter in Cincinnati at around the age of 25. He worked as a porter and later as a confidential inspector (or investigator) for the company for 27 years, retiring in 1920 to head the Pullman Porters’ Benefits Association.
By the time of his death, his reputation was so vast, his passing was written up in a tribute in the New York Times and of course was in papers across the country. According the New York Age (11 July 1936, p3), thousands of people attended his funeral in Chicago.
Parker rose to prominence in the Pullman company after he was part of a group of representatives who were called to Chicago to discuss worker conditions in light of complaints and was the only one who spoke up to the “Big Boss” and explained what the complaints were really about. “That temerity was the beginning of his influence with the Pullman management.” The boss in question apparently admired his candor and gave Parker the role of worker representative going forward. Parker was later instrumental in getting the Pullman company to hire Black mechanics, recruiting them from “down South” to work in the Chicago, St. Louis, and Buffalo shops in the lead-up to WWI, and his influence helped protect those jobs after the war as well. (The preceding was summarized from the tribute in the NYT, 11 July 1936, p 11.)
His memorial at Lincoln is really lovely and is still honored to this day. Someone had recently left a remembrance when I was last there.
RIP Mr. Parker
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