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Parker seeks to fulfill lifelong dream with candidacy for criminal court judge

May 5th, 2014 1:30 pm by Amanda J. Vicars

Parker seeks to fulfill lifelong dream with candidacy for criminal court judge

John D. Parker ~ Candidate for Criminal Court Judge (2nd Judicial District)

"I was 6 years old, standing at the courthouse when I decided I was going to be a judge," John D. Parker, candidate for Criminal Court Judge (2nd Judicial District) said. "When most of the other kids [were] playing ball, I was at the jailhouse and courthouse with [my father or uncle who were both in law enforcement over 40 years each]; I grew up in the system."

Parker, born and raised in Kingsport, began pursuing his unwavering dream of judgeship at the age of 7, when he obtained his first of many jobs, mowing lawns. "I've never stopped working since that day," he recalled.

Parker attended city schools, including Dobyns-Bennett High School, where at the age of 16, "I bought my first car and paid for it," he said. That same year, his father died and he had to continue working through high school. His late mother, Frances Parker, whom he misses dearly, worked as a laborer at the Kingsport Press and kept a roof over their heads and food on the table.

After high school, Parker said he paid his way through college at East Tennessee State University (ETSU), working a variety of jobs - ranging from washing dishes/bartending at Ridgefields Country Club to selling cemetery plots - and graduated free of debt.

He then attended law school in Nashville, Tenn., occasionally living in his car the first year to pay for tuition, food and gas until his second year of school when he became a deputy sheriff for Davidson County Sheriff Office.

After passing the bar, Parker said, "I opened up my law [office in Downtown Kingsport] with [$400] in my pocket between me and the street... I'm still here 31 years later is all I can say."

The self-proclaimed workaholic with a huge sense of humor admitted "I love what I do. ... I'm on vacation 365 days a year ... and I'd approach the judgeship the same way."

In the first 20 years at his law office, Parker almost exclusively practiced criminal law. But in the last 11 years, he's defended both criminal and civil cases. He feels this has better equipped him to be a judge. The position requires honesty, experience and age, Parker said, smiling. "I've got all those."

For two years in the 80s, Parker served as a city judge in another city and sat in for general sessions court judges in Kingsport when they were out.

If voted in as Criminal Court Judge (2nd Judicial District), Parker said he first plans to implement a drug court within the criminal court. "[Young drug offenders will] get a lot more out of that than they will jail," he said. "I also believe in second chances, if [they've] got minor misdemeanor charges. ... I'm giving them [probation] the first time."

Parker said he also plans "to streamline the system" by doing things like avoiding a probation hearing when a clear-cut decision can be made prior, based on the offender's criminal history.

When John D. Parker's not practicing law - which is rare indeed - he said his time is spent with his wonderful wife of seven years, Penny; his one living sister, and his 51 nephews and nieces (some of whom are great and great-great). "I've had a hand in raising all of them," he said.

Whether it's his work or his family life, Parker said he gives his all, and "I'm just as determined to be a great judge, not just a good one."

Paid for by the Committee to Elect John D. Parker, Criminal Court Judge; Linde Hanes, Treasurer.

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