Biography of Amasa J. Parker, Jr.
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AMASA J. PARKER, JR.
FOREMOST among Albanians who in various ways have devoted their time and best energies to the advancement of the public interests of the city and state, stands the name of Amasa J. Parker, Jr. Born on the 6th day of May, 1843, in the beautiful village of Delhi, Delaware county, N. Y., he is the only surviving son of the venerable Judge Amasa J. Parker and the late Harriet Langdon Parker. His parents removed to Albany when he was but a year old, and here he grew up in the midst of our institutions, in a city for whose welfare and prosperity no one has stronger feelings of attachment, or higher ambition that she may excel. His earliest education was carefully watched over by loving and cultured parents, whom any son might well be proud to honor and revere. When very young he was first sent to a small private school under the charge of Miss Margaret Cassidy. Afterward he became a pupil in the school of the Messrs. Wrightson, where he remained about six years studying the elementary branches. He was fitted for college at the Albany academy. In the fall of 1860 he joined the class of ’63 at Union college at the beginning of the sophomore year, where he was noted for diligence in his studies and for his devotion to athletic exercises. It was while in college that his taste for military matters was first strongly displayed. In 1861, when the civil war threw its dark shadow over the country, young Parker, then nearly 18 years old, was one of the most active students engaged in organizing and drilling the ” Union College Zouaves, ‘ which furnished upward of sixty commissioned officers for our army. In vain he endeavored to obtain his parents’ consent to his entering the army. They insisted that it was his first duty to look after those liable to be dependent upon him, and voluntarily, and at large expense, furnished a representative to go in his place.
Graduating with honor from “old Union,” he turned his undivided attention to the study of the law, a profession to which his natural taste was early inclined, and to which he had devoted much time during his senior year in college. He became a law student in the office of Messrs. Cagger, Porter & Hand – a firm then in the zenith of its reputation – where he remained two years. Early in the fall of 1863 he entered the Albany Law School, and graduating from that excellent institution the following May, was admitted to the bar at the general term of the Supreme Court at Albany, December 26, 1864.
On the 1st of May, 1865, he entered into partnership with his father in the general practice of the law, which partnership still continues. From September i, 1876, to September I, 1888, ex-Judge Edwin Countryman was also a member of the firm, which was during that period known as Parker & Countryman. In 1888 Mr. Countryman retired from the firm in order to form a new firm with his son.
During a period of over twenty-four years, Amasa J. Parker, Jr., besides faithfully serving the public in offices of trust, honor and responsibility, has been active in the line of his profession, practicing in all the different courts, county, state and federal, and taking part in numerous and most important cases, especially those relating to banks, wills, and railroad questions, which have been placed in the hands of the distinguished firms of which he has been a member, and whose clientage has always been large and lucrative. The mere enumeration of these cases would exceed the limits prescribed by this brief memoir.
Mr. Parker’s love of military science and discipline, so early shown in his college days, has increased with the passing years. He is a firm believer in the good citizenship involved in the service of the National Guard. In 1866 he was appointed an aide-de-camp with rank of major, on the staff of the Third division, National Guard.
In 1875 he was elected lieutenant-colonel of the Tenth regiment, N. G. S. N. Y., and two years later was unanimously chosen its colonel. He brought up the number and condition of the regiment to such a high standard that previous to his resignation in 1880 the regiment had 850 officers and men, and was second only in strength to the famous Seventh regiment of New York City. Mr. Parker served as president of the National Guard association, S. N. Y., from 1878 to 1880. No other officer ever filled that position for more than one term.
Always a strict, consistent and conservative democrat, Mr. Parker’s career as a legislator began in 1882, when he was elected to the assembly from the third district of Albany county. He served as chairman of the militia committee, and was also a member of the judiciary committee and the committee on federal relations, and was the compiler of the Military Code now in force in this state.
In 1886 and 1887 he served as state senator from Albany County, and was prominent in the senate for his tireless energy and fearless and independent course in what he deemed the right. In the senate he served on the following important committees: Finance, judiciary, cities, militia, commerce and navigation, taxation and retrenchment, and miscellaneous corporations.
Senator Parker originated the plan early in 1886, under which the ” Albany delegation,” the senator and the four assemblymen from Albany county, gave public notice of stated meetings which were held at the city hall, Albany, weekly, and where the delegation sat as a body, and heard discussed all proposed legislative measures relating in any way to the county of Albany and the cities of Albany and Cohoes. This plan insured a thorough understanding of all ” local measures ” by the ” Albany delegation,” created perfect harmony of action, and prevented sly and underhand legislation. After such preliminary hearings many proposed bills were abandoned, while others were simplified and consolidated, and others were perfected. The result gave universal satisfaction, and the plan has since been kept up by the succeeding legislators representing Albany County.
Senator Parker, in 1886, after a long and severe struggle, secured the addition of one hundred thousand dollars to the general national guard appropriation, making that sum four hundred thousand dollars per annum; which amount has since annually been voted by each succeeding legislature without question. The following year he inaugurated and carried through the additional item of one hundred thousand dollars toward the purchase of new overcoats for the entire national guard of the state, and also drafted and passed the Albany armory bill, containing large appropriations by the state and Albany county, and under which the following year the present Albany armory site next west of the Harmanus Bleecker hall, on Washington avenue, was acquired by commission. Work on the Albany armory is now progressing, and it is expected that it will be completed and occupied by the Tenth battalion of Albany early in the spring of 1891. It will be one of the best and most commodious armories in the state.
In August, 1886, on the reorganization and reduction of the divisions and brigades, Mr. Parker was elected brigadier-general of the Third brigade, N. G. S. N. Y. His brigade district embraces thirty-two of the sixty counties of the state. He has made many radical changes and done much to increase the strength and efficiency of the brigade, which was nearly three thousand strong, and was pronounced the finest brigade among the fifty thousand troops in the parade at the Washington centennial in New York on the 30th of April, 1889.
The New York Times, referring to the parade and the Third brigade on that occasion, quoted from the official report to the war department, Washington, D. C, as follows: ” As the companies of these regiments rolled by in solid masses they showed a magnificent front, and as a mass and body of troops nothing last Tuesday compared with the Third New York brigade.” When Gen. Parker took command of the Third brigade in August, 1886, the total aggregated 2,204 officers and men; now the Third brigade aggregates about 3,100 officers and men, and in morale and efficiency it is second to none in this country.
As a promoter of public improvement and progress in the solid old Dutch city of Albany, Gen. Parker, with the enterprise of his New England ancestors stirring him to action, has already won an enviable reputation among all classes of citizens. His public services in this respect, though often of a varied and onerous nature, have always been gratuitously and cheerfully rendered. He served as president of the Young Men’s association in 1875 and 1876, when he and his associates cleared the association of heavy debts; and during his term was started the noble project for a great public hall for the city of Albany with library building attached. Elaborate plans were made, framed and exhibited to the Albany public, but the necessary funds could not then be raised, and the project slumbered to be revived by Mr. Parker and others in 1887 and 1888, when the long-desired Bleecker trust was secured by them from Judge Parker and over fifty thousand dollars besides, raised by popular subscription; and as a result we now have the magnificent Harmanus Bleecker hall. The framed building plans of 1875 will, upon the completion of the hall, be hung up in the same as a part of the history of the institution.
General Parker was elected by the alumni a trustee of Union college and served one term. He is a trustee of the Albany Law school; is president of its alumni association and represents that body in the board of governors of Union university. He is also a trustee of the Albany Medical college, succeeding his father in that position on his resignation after more than forty years’ service, during fifteen of which he was president of the board. He succeeded his father in 1881 as one of the board of managers of the Hudson river state hospital at Poughkeepsie, one of the most complete and valuable asylums for the insane in this country. New buildings there are about completed, begun in 1886, while General Parker was in the senate, and the capacity of the institution is more than trebled and much additional land for farm purposes has been acquired by the state within the past three years. General Parker was elected president of the board the day he entered it, and has since been re-elected eight times. This great asylum today can accommodate one thousand patients and represents an investment by the state of over two millions of dollars, independent of the large outlay in the purchase of the original three hundred acres of valuable land presented to the state upon which to found the institution. Its board of managers is strong and independent in its policy, and while enforcing the most rigid economy in all the departments of the institution is determined that it shall excel all others in this country in completeness, efficiency and good results.
General Parker was married to Miss Cornelia Kane Strong, of New Orleans, April 22d, 1868. Mrs. Parker was fatally injured by a runaway, caused by the negligent construction of the neck-yoke of the carriage in which she was driving, September 29th, 1882. She lingered until December 18th, 1883, and left six children – two sons, now in Yale College, and four daughters who are nearly grown. She was a woman of rare abilities and gracious manners, as well as of great personal loveliness. At the time his wife met with her sad accident, General Parker himself, in his endeavor to save the others in the party, was fearfully injured and it was a long time before he regained his former health and vigor.
General Parker is above medium height, powerfully built, with far more than ordinary physical strength and endurance. He has always been a very temperate man and an athlete, rarely varying a pound in weight. For many years he has ridden horseback daily – Sundays excepted, without regard to rain or shine, heat or cold.
He is a man of engaging manners, active in his movements and gentlemanly in his bearing. As a public speaker he is earnest, ready and forcible; always firm in his convictions and undeviating from the line of duty which he marks out. He is endowed with remarkable will power, and possesses great decision and independence of character. Now in the very prime and vigor of manhood, following in the footsteps of an honored father, he has in prospect many more years of activity in his professional and political work and in lending a helping hand toward the further growth and development of municipal and state affairs.