Art Parker headshot

Almost fifty years ago I graduated from high school in Birmingham. I thought it was a little strange. As my fellow seniors and I sat there in a gown, burning up inside the gym, and sitting on very hard metal chairs, there was some guy telling us how smart we were. I doubted my smarts four years later when I endured the same thing at Auburn University. It was doubly difficult at Auburn since it took about an hour longer than my high school graduation.

I really don’t remember much about either one of those days other than the previously mentioned difficulties. What I do remember clearly about that day in 1973 were the words spoken by my good friend, Bryan Morgan, the senior class president, valedictorian, etc. Bryan was the guy that did everything right, set the examples and was the most beloved student in the entire school. It was only fitting that he delivered an address prior to the guest commencement speaker.

Bryan said, “The time of youth is short, but the spirit of youth reigns forever.”

I have never forgotten that.

Looking back upon those days of my youth I recall the never ending feeling of being young, carefree and enjoying life. Like so many people when they are eighteen years old the reality of growing up wasn’t fully concrete in my mind. Grow up? Who wants to do that?

And, like so many others I got through college doing well enough academically to endure the graduation ordeal one more time. I could have done much better but part of my major was having fun and that turned As into Bs and Bs into Cs - but they still told me how smart I was when I graduated.

I made a mad rush to grow up after college. I married young and became a father much younger than most people my age. I became very involved in my community and progressed in the business world. I began traveling for a living when I was very young made a ton of friends all over Alabama and a few other states.

I attacked every day and intended to make the most of it. I eventually moved to central Alabama and then tossed away the coat and tie and got in the newspaper business, mostly covering sports. I was in my late 40s then. I would come home from football games late on Friday night and Mrs. Parker would ask me if I intended to do this the rest of my life. I always said yes and it was too much fun to quit.

It’s still fun after two decades in the newspaper business. One morning you may see me at the State House and a few hours later I’m at a baseball game. I’m convinced what keeps me going is the spirit my friend Bryan told us about.

None of us can defeat the heavy hand of time, but we can sure fight it. The best way is to hold on to the spirit associated with our younger days.

The local Class of 2019 will soon wear those ridiculously hot gowns and sit on those hard metal chairs. The majority will move on to college and the world will present new challenges and opportunities on a daily basis. They will probably make extensive, grandiose plans for the future and, eventually, they will go forth to tackle the world. All of that is good – providing they carry with them and cling to the spirit that makes the best time of life what it is.

And I hope in their lives the spirit of youth reigns forever.