A tribute to Henry G. Parks Jr., the man who created and built Parks Sausages (“More Park Sausages, Mom”) into a national brand, written by the man he befriended and mentored for 10 years.
Henry Parks, born in 1916, was raised in “the segregated North” in Dayton, Ohio. The prevalent bigotry and de facto separation of the races that marked most of his life form a running backdrop to the story of a man determined to succeed in business. Dorsey’s debut volume is the completion of a project begun by Parks himself and is the fulfillment of a promise Dorsey made when Parks selected him to write his biography. The author has waded through voluminous notes, newspaper articles, awards and reminiscences to present a portrait of a talented, innovative entrepreneur. In this aptly titled retrospective, the lion’s share of the narrative chronicles Parks’ wide-ranging business ventures and participation on the boards of many of America’s large corporations. It’s not until the final chapters that readers are given a glimpse into Parks’ personal life. Here, one can find hints of the complexities of a man who operated by a personal moral code yet formed a lifelong and profitable business partnership with a notorious Baltimore numbers runner; a man who assumed without question financial support for his family but spent little time with them and, in the end, would say that he loved his children but didn’t really know them; and a man who declared, “I am not a Negro businessman. I am a businessman who is Negro” but who was committed to raising the hopes and aspirations of young blacks. One can almost hear Parks instructing his young protégé to write a business biography. Unfortunately, the result contains many dry passages and occasionally tedious listings of accomplishments. Timelines jump back and forth as Dorsey attempts to organize the volume into conceptual rather than sequential chapters. Absolutely clear, however, is that the author has great love for a man who treated him as a son.
Offers insight into the 20th-century–African-American experience and a lesson in optimism.