Raymond Parks: A Life At Speed

Raymond Parks poses with Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt had sought out Parks in the mid 1990s, saying he wanted to meet the "other great man of Daytona."

By Eddie Samples
Posted in Feature Stories 6/25/10

On a cool summer morning in 1928, fourteen-year-old Raymond Parks did his usual pre-dawn chores of building a fire, milking the cow, and feeding the stock.  Then, using his wooden scythe as a guise, he told the family he was going to cut briars by the creek.  Searching across a dark cornfield, he met up with some men waiting in a nearby car.  A few months earlier, they had offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse.

After leaving, he never came back – not to live anyway.  The prospect of ever being a North Georgia farmer was not to be in the young man’s future.

Born in Dawson County, Georgia, on June 5, 1914, Raymond was the oldest of 16 children.  Just 10 when his mother Leila died, his father Alfred married her sister Ila and bore another 10 kids to the family.  They lived in Dawsonville, Georgia until he was two, and then moved to Brown’s Bridge Road in nearby Hall County.

“Daddy Operated ‘Five Mile Store’ (because it was five miles from Gainesville),” Raymond’s sister Lucille Shirley told us.  “As far as I know, the old home place and store remain there today.  Other than farming and general stores, the mountains didn’t have much to offer.”

Unless you were in the whisky business, which Raymond wasn’t…until he began his new life working at a still near Winder, Georgia for Walter Day.  Mr. Day was the man who picked him up that morning in 1928.

“I met Walter Day in the Hall County jail,” Raymond told us.  “I had gone up the road to get my daddy something to drink, but instead I got three months.  If I had told them I was 14, I wouldn’t have been locked up.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but I stuck to my story of being older.”

Raymond Parks (right) stands with his father, Alfred.

So with a little help from a hometown judge, within a year Raymond went from errand boy to whisky maker.

But it didn’t last long.

“In 1930 my aunt and uncle paid a visit,” Raymond said.

Maude and Miller Parks had located him and convinced the boy to come to Atlanta to work with Miller at his service station and garage.

“So after Mr. Day found a replacement, I went to the ‘city’ for my first time,” Mr. Parks said.

While making whisky, Raymond earned enough money to buy two vehicles – a 1929 Chevrolet and a 1926 Ford T-Model.

“I didn’t know how to get there from Winder, but my uncle had left me directions to Sears Roebuck on Ponce de Leon Avenue, the most direct route.  From there, I followed him to the station in my Ford.  I went back later for my Chevy.”

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