Saturday, January 25, 2003

Obituary: James Parker, helped shape labor relations

Kroger official was friends with Jimmy Hoffa

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mr. Parker

TERRACE PARK - James B. "Jim" Parker was one of the most respected figures in labor relations in the food industry at a time when many factories were rife with problems.

Mr. Parker established the labor relations department for the Kroger Co. and served as the company's representative to President Nixon's Wage and Price Control Board.

He also was friends with Jimmy Hoffa of the Teamsters.

"Kroger enjoyed relative tranquility in its dealings with the Teamsters, and there was a genuine respect between Dad and Jimmy Hoffa," said his son, William S. "Bill" Parker. "As a teenager, I can remember my great surprise when I would answer the phone at home and find I was talking to Jimmy Hoffa."

James Parker died Sunday at Deupree Community in Oakley. The Terrace Park resident was 92.

Paul Heldman, senior vice president and general counsel for Kroger, said, "Jim Parker was a respected leader who helped shape Kroger's labor relations policies during a period of rapid growth, and we are saddened by his passing."

Mr. Parker joined Kroger as a $25-dollar-a-week inventory auditor in Cleveland in 1931. By the late 1930s he was personnel manager for the Cleveland Division.

At that time, labor relations in the company were tumultuous and Mr. Parker was sent to 10 plants by Joe Hall, vice president of manufacturing, to bridge the gap between labor and management.

"That effort was successful and, over time, Dad and Mr. Hall brought Kroger labor relations into the 20th century," said Mr. Parker's son.

In 1945, Mr. Parker established the labor relations department and managed it until he retired in 1974. In 1961 the company appointed him vice president of labor relations.

"I think Dad was the most-respected labor relations executive in the food industry from the 1950s to the 1970s," his son said. "I know he was offered jobs at A&P and Jewel T and others, but he was loyal to Kroger and his contributions were respected."

Mr. Parker served two terms on Terrace Park City Council and as vice mayor of the village. After he retired, he served as the village building inspector. In 1961 he was appointed chairman of the Committee for Community Survival, which attracted national attention for building the nation's first community bomb shelter.

He served seven years on the board of the Cincinnati Community Chest and, as a member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, served 15 years as a vestryman, junior warden and senior warden. In 1976 he was commissioned to research and write the centennial history of St. Thomas and after retirement served on the board of directors of the Episcopal Retirement Homes.

Mr. Parker graduated from Chevy Chase (Md.) High School and attended Case School of Applied Engineering in Cleveland (now Case Western Reserve University) until the Depression forced him to quit to help support his family.

Mr. Parker was preceded in death by his wife of 54 years, Sophia "Soap" Parker. In addition to his son, Bill, survivors include another son, James B. Parker IV; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Services have been held. Memorials: Episcopal Retirement Homes Inc., 3870 Virginia Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45227 or Vitas Hospice, 11500 Northlake Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249.


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