Henry Ellsworth Parker, 90, the former state treasurer of Connecticut, died on September 29, 2018 in New Haven, Connecticut.
Parker was elected state treasurer in 1974, on the Democratic ticket that saw Ella T. Grasso gain office as the state’s first female governor.
As Connecticut treasurer, Parker was sole fiduciary of the state’s $3.8 billion pension fund, and served as Bond Commissioner, Bank Commissioner and a member of the Financial Advisory Board.
His charismatic personality, grace, eloquence and sartorial elegance quickly became a hallmark of his visionary leadership and expanding national influence in the financial services arena.
Among his many achievements as treasurer was the creation of Yankee Mac, a $450 million home mortgage program helping the urban centers, and his chairmanship of the Governor’s Task Force on South Africa, a body that produced for Connecticut model anti-apartheid legislation, the first in the nation.
He counted as his greatest achievement his 1977 chairmanship of the State Citizen’s Committee that resulted in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday becoming a state holiday seven years before it became a national holiday. Governor Grasso signed it into law in 1976.
In 1986, Hank joined Atalanta Sosnoff Capital Corporation in New York. He retired from the financial services industry in 1997.
Prior to winning statewide office in Connecticut, from 1966 to 1969 Parker served as chairman of New Haven’s newly formed Black Coalition, a civic organization that would address a variety of problems inhibiting African American progress.
In 1969, Parker was asked to run for mayor of New Haven and to chair the Democratic Alliance.
He received 36% of the vote, won ten wards, and seven Democratic aldermen—dubbed “the Magnificent Seven,” were elected. He ran again in 1971 and received 42% of the vote and ten wards.
Henry E. Parker was born to Daisy and Henry L. Parker in Baltimore, Maryland, on February 14, 1928. The eldest of six children, Parker often reflected that he and his siblings were children of the Great Depression and World War II, reared against a painful backdrop of racial discrimination, abject poverty and flagrant injustice.
Throughout his youth, Parker was a high achiever. Legendary sportswriter Sam Lacy regularly reported in the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper on Hank’s athletic prowess in football and basketball at the famed Frederick Douglass High School. He was an honor student, captain of the football and basketball teams, president of the student council, and winner of the H. S. McCard Medal for declamation.
Upon graduating in 1946, Hank was awarded a scholarship to the historically Black institution, Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania. After funding fell through, Parker was drafted into the U.S. Army. He became a starring center for his unit’s basketball team.
After discharge from the army, Parker declined an offer to play for the Harlem Globetrotters; instead, he attended Hampton Institute from which he graduated in 1956.
In 1959 he married Janette (Jan) Johnson of Poughkeepsie, New York. They moved to New Haven, where Parker became the Program Director of the Winchester Community School, and Jan organized Mother Goose Nursery and Kindergarten.
Hank was an avid golfer and enjoyed playing with his friends in Connecticut during the summer, spring, and fall and enjoyed the Palm Coast in the winter.
He will be remembered by many as a kind and generous person who strove to be the best in all his endeavors and left a significant mark on the lives he touched in so many ways.
His parents, son, Curtis Hasan; three sisters, Thelma Parker Wiley, Bettye Parker Ford, Florence Parker Monroe, and brother, Jerome Parker, precede him in death.
In addition to his wife Janette (Jan) and his daughter Janet, he leaves to mourn sister, Peggy Parker Ammons; his grandson Troy Brown, a great grandson, Daniel Brown and mother Janice Long; nephew, Frank Wiley; nieces, Lisa Monroe, Susan Monroe, Jodi Ammons Johnson and Riley Johnson. He is also mourned by the Johnson family of Poughkeepsie, NY; and a host of friends.
A celebration of Mr. Parker’s life and legacy will be held Friday, October 5, 2018, at 11:00 a.m. at Dixwell Ave. Congregational United Church of Christ, 217 Dixwell Ave., New Haven. Viewing and visitation will be held at the church from 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. Burial will be in Beaverdale Memorial Park. Calling hours will be held at the church Thursday, from 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please forward charitable contributions to the Henry E. Parker Educational Scholarship Fund, c/o Martyn Philpot, Jr., LLC, 409 Orange Street, New Haven, CT, 06511.